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'It's like turning an aircraft carrier': Public health officials encouraged by Dublin's five-day Covid incidence but urge caution

Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 is currently 70.4, with Dublin’s rate almost double that at 138.0 per 100,000.

Image: Department of Health

PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS have indicated that NPHET is unlikely to make any decision regarding possible additional restrictions for Dublin until later this week. 

There is speculation that additional restrictions could be implemented if cases in Dublin – which is currently at Level 3 – do not stabilise. 

Health officials are cautiously optimistic, however. Flagging concerns over the rise in Covid-19 cases in Dublin one week before the government formally announced restrictions may have helped suppress Covid-19′s spread, one NPHET source said. 

“It’s like turning an aircraft carrier,” another senior health official told TheJournal.ie, noting that numbers are continuing to rise.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is due to meet on Thursday to discuss if additional restrictions are required. NPHET will have a better picture of how Covid-19 is spreading in Dublin by then. 

Dublin – which has seen a spike in cases since late August and is currently under Level 3 – has the highest 14-day incidence rate in the country at 138 per 100,000, while Tipperary has the lowest at 16.9 per 100,000. 

Louth has the second-highest 14-day incidence rate (101.6) and Leitrim is third (96.7). 

Just above Tipperary, Sligo (18.3) and Kerry (17.6) have the second- and third- lowest rates in the country over the past 14 days. 

Of the 3,353 cases of Covid-19 reported since 7 September up to midnight on Sunday, 97 have resulted in hospitalisation and 9 cases were admitted to ICU.

The median age of cases in the past 14 days is 33 with 21.68% of cases between the ages of 15 and 24. 

Of 3,353 cases reported since 7 September, more than half (1,860) are located in Dublin. 

A full county-by-county breakdown is available here: 

Screenshot 2020-09-22 at 14.10.47 - Display 2 (1) Source: HPSC

Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate (70.4) is currently higher than Italy (34.3) and more than double that of Germany (26.3), according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Ireland’s rate, however, remains lower than Spain (310.9), France (192.6) and the UK (72.8).  

w36_37_COVID_subnational_Last_2week Source: ECDC

It’s clear from the data – as has been flagged in recent weeks – that cases are on the rise across Europe. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday, Professor Anthony Staines predicted that if cases continued to rise there could be a Europe-wide lockdown after Christmas lasting three months. 

“If we get to that, it represents a failure. We don’t need to go there but we have to act now,” he said. 

Data published by the Department of Health last week showed the first national breakdown of Covid-19 incidence by local area.

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In Dublin, Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart had the highest 14-day incidence rate nationwide at 189 per 100,000.

Members of NPHET also keep a close eye on Ireland’s five-day average incidence. 

If case incidence declines, this decrease will be seen more quickly in our five-day average than in our 14-day incidence rate. 

Public health officials are encouraged by Dublin’s five-day incidence at present, TheJournal.ie understands. 

The rate was 10 per 100,000 per day on 14 September and is currently 10.7, an indication that the rate of infection could be slowing down – the rate has been steadily between 10 and 11 this week. “It’s only a hopeful sign,” one source told TheJournal.ie.

20200919_122916 Source: Department of Health

A major consideration when NPHET meets on Thursday will be whether additional restrictions are needed not just for Dublin, but other hotspots elsewhere in Ireland. 

“It is really going to be towards the end of the week before we’ve a handle on whether things are improving or not,” one NPHET member told TheJournal.ie. “Each day colours in the picture a bit more.”

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