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'The highest in the country': The stark numbers behind Donegal's move to Level 3

Donegal to be placed under Level 3 restrictions after spike in Covid-19 cases

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HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY they were forced to act in moving Donegal to Level 3 restrictions after seeing incidence rates of Covid-19 that were “the highest in the country”. 

Speaking at a briefing this evening, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that Donegal now has the highest 14-day and 7-day incidence of Covid-19 in the State.

The 7-day incidence rate is now 102 per 100,000 people, more than double that of any part of the country apart from Dublin. 

In the Lifford-Stranorlar local electoral area, 87 separate cases have been confirmed over the past two weeks, giving a 14-day incidence rate of 336.1. 

This is over five times greater than the average incidence rate across the entire country, which is 70.7.

PastedImage-5563 Source: https://covid19ireland-geohive.hub.arcgis.com/

“While there have been cases widely distributed all across the county, there has been particularly significant disease activity in the Lifford and Stranorlar areas, with a 14-day incidence of 336 per 100,00. The highest in the country,” Glynn said. 

The Letterkenny area has a 14-day incidence of 81 per 100,000, while the west of the county has a 14 day incidence of 92 per 100,000. 

“Given the rapidity with which the situation has deteriorated in Donegal. Nphet today felt it appropriate to recommend the application of Level 3 measures to the county.”

Lifford is located along the border near Strabane and Derry, with Glynn saying it is a “prime example” showing the virus “doesn’t care about county boundaries or borders”. 

Lifford-based Sinn Féin councillor Gary Doherty has described this evening’s restrictions as “a real kick in the teeth”. 

“There’s no way to sugar-coat it, this is a real kick in the teeth for all of us in Donegal. In particular, I’m thinking this evening of those whose businesses are affected and employees who will be out of work again,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“Thoughts also with people who are genuinely fearful of the effect Covid will have on their health if they contract the virus. This is a worrying time. But we got through it before, and we’ll do it again. I have no doubt that the people of Donegal won’t be found wanting, and that we’ll do everything we can to ensure we reduce the spread of this virus and get back to some normality as quickly as possible.

“The numbers released this evening are stark and very frightening, particularly for those of us within the Lifford-Stranorlar electoral area,” he added.

“Anecdotally we knew that the numbers were rising, but the extent of the infection rates within our area is of a scale that I don’t think any of us were expecting.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the decision to move Donegal to Level 3 was based on “very worrying data provided by Nphet”, adding: “Clusters are growing throughout the county.”

‘Dropping their guard’

Speaking about the pattern on clusters within the county, Glynn added that it was spreading within families and extended families. 

“What we’re seeing though is a pattern of cases and clusters similar to what we’ve seen in other counties,” he said. 

Within families, again not surprising given the nature of this disease, but extended families, and the public health doctors in Donegal are telling us that what they’re seeing is spreading within and between families and extended families, as a result of socialisation, both within households, but also at family events where people are dropping their guard because they know each other. 

Asked whether the clusters referred to are related to meat plants, Glynn said there has been “no one significant workplace”. 

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“There have been workplace clusters associated with workplaces, and family clusters, having been imported from workplaces, but no one significant workplace,” he said.

This is spread across families across communities. And it really comes back to socialisation and intermingling between households which seems to be a national trend.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy

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Rónán Duffy

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