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How this week's Covid-19 data compares to last week

On day one of Level 5 let’s look at the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland – and how the data compares with last week.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Oct 2020

IRELAND IS NOW under Level 5 restrictions until 1 December. 

Public Health officials will be closely monitoring Covid-19′s spread over the coming weeks as restrictions on movement across the country come into effect. 

As Level 5 kicks in, let’s look at the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland – and how the data compares with last week. 

Daily cases have been rising rapidly in recent weeks. 

Health officials last night confirmed 1,066 further cases of Covid-19 and three more deaths. 

Over 1,000 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday and over 1,200 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday

Ireland’s reproductive number is now estimated at between 1.3 and 1.4.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said a reproductive number of 0.5 would be a sufficient level of transmission to move out of strict restrictions. 

Ireland’s national incidence rate is 302.49 cases per 100,000 of the population on a 14-day rolling average, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. 

The incidence rate in individual counties has also spiked since last Thursday. 

Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 14.00.12 - Display 2 HPSC HPSC

Cavan’s incidence rate has almost doubled since last week. There are now 1055.5 cases per 100,000 – the highest any county has reached so far. 

Meath is second-highest in Ireland with a 14-day incidence rate of 659.9 cases per 100,000, significantly higher than other counties. 

The next highest is Westmeath which has 417.9 cases per 100,000. 

Counties with lowest incidence rate include Tipperary (120.3), Wicklow (127.1) and Waterford (173.0).

By comparison to Europe, Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate is currently higher than Italy (210.9) and almost three times that of Germany (106.8), according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Ireland’s rate, however, remains lower than  Spain (379.1), France (488.6) and the UK (373.1). 

Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 13.25.37 - Display 2 ECDC ECDC

The above countries, including Ireland, are considerably lower than both Belgium, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1019.8 and Czechia, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1148.5 per 100,000. 

Both countries have seen cases spike in recent weeks. 

Testing & Tracing

It’s been a tough few days for the testing and tracing system, which can best be described as a bit of a mess right now.

Approximately 116,000 tests have been carried out over the last 7 days. The positivity rate is now 6.9% -  an increase of 0.4% since this day last week. 

The HSE on Wednesday said it will ask more than 2,000 people who received a positive Covid-19 test result last week to alert their own close contacts due to “unprecedented pressure” on Ireland’s contact tracing system. 

The HSE sent a text message yesterday to between 2,000 and 2,500 people who have been informed by text of their infection, asking them to inform their own close contacts that they should restrict their movements and contact their GP “immediately” to arrange a test. 

The HSE said its contact tracing teams have faced “unprecedented pressure” over the past two weeks. Contact tracers normally get in touch with close contacts of infected cases to arrange for them to be tested. 

This “once-off” decision has raised serious questions about Ireland’s Test & Trace system. 

NPHET minutes from 24 September reveal that Public Health officials expressed concerns that Test & Trace capacity needed to be ramped up and requested that the HSE discuss its “strategic planning” to increase capacity as a “matter of urgency”. 

“The NPHET noted that significant additional testing and tracing capacities will be needed to meet the requirements of the coming months,” it was noted.

“The NPHET noted that strategic planning is underway by the HSE in this regard and requests that this be submitted to and discussed with the relevant officials in the Department of Health as a matter of urgency.”

Speaking yesterday morning, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he had been been assured by the HSE that the issues that have emerged “won’t happen again“.

“For a short period, demand did outstrip supply,” he said this morning. “I’d prefer it didn’t happen…I am assured it won’t happen again by the HSE.”

Hospital & ICU capacity 

There have been been 25 hospital admissions in the last 31 hours and 24 discharges. 

There are – as of this morning – 311 confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospitals – and 37 people in Intensive Care Units as of 8am this morning. 

Last Thursday, there were 238 hospitalised cases of Covid-19 and 29 people in ICU. 

Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 13.33.10 - Display 2 Department of Health Department of Health

The Mater Hospital in Dublin is among eight hospitals across the country with no available ICU beds as of 6.30pm on Wednesday – an improvement on last week when nine hospitals were without ICU beds.

The latest HSE data shows that of 28 acute hospitals around the country, eight facilities, including St. Vincent’s in Dublin and Mercy Hospital in Cork did not have any available ICU beds. 

Outbreaks & Clusters  

There has been a significant rise in the number of outbreaks in schools since the HPSC’s data was released last week.

Outside of private homes, there are now most clusters in schools than in any other setting with 46 new outbreaks in the week up to last Friday. 

The HPSC notes, however: “These outbreaks are outbreaks associated with school children +/or school staff. Transmission of Covid-19 within the school has not necessarily been established in these outbreaks.”

Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 14.08.46 - Display 2 HPSC HPSC

The total number of outbreaks since the start of the pandemic is 5,590. Of these, 2,999 remain “open” according to the HPSC. 

For an outbreak to be considered “closed”, there must be 28 days from the last case diagnosed or becoming symptomatic.

There were 461 new outbreaks in private homes confirmed up to last Friday – an increase of 109 the previous week bringing to 3,982 the total number of outbreaks in this setting since the pandemic reached Ireland. 

Of these, 2,328 remain open. 

Finally, here have been five new outbreaks in nursing homes – 37 outbreaks in nursing homes remain “open”.  

The Dáil was told yesterday of a nursing home outbreak in the west of the country in which 90% of its 28 residents have tested positive for Covid-19. 

The HSE later confirmed that an outbreak was declared on Sunday after serial testing identified two cases, and that all residents and staff were tested the following day.

A HSE Infection Prevention and Control nurse attended the nursing home on Monday 19 October to provide support to staff.

“The first outbreak control team meeting chaired by public health took place on Tuesday and there have been daily outbreak control team meeting since, and they continue,” the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor told a media briefing this afternoon.   

“As of this morning, we know that a significant number of the staff nursing and health care workers have tested positive. We know that a large number of the residents have tested positive.” 

Addressing staffing concerns at the facility, O’Connor said “stable staffing” is now in place. 

“We’re continuing to support and we also know that the rosters are covered, that we have staff in place to provide support to the nursing home. We also have a dedicated manager, providing daily support in terms of accessing staff,” she said.

We’re continuing to monitor the nursing home closely. And we know that we have stable staffing in place for the next three days. So I just want to address that because I’m aware that there has been considerable discussion of about it today. 

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