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Reduce your close contacts by half over the next week, say Dr Ronan Glynn and Philip Nolan

Senior civil servant Liz Canavan said that counties Louth, Waterford, Limerick, Kildare, Donegal Leitrim and Offaly have shown “concerning trends”.

Image: Sam Boal

Updated Sep 21st 2020, 11:48 AM

PEOPLE ALL OVER the country are being asked to half the number of close contacts they have over the next week in a bid to bring a recent surge in Covid-19 cases under control. 

Professor Philip Nolan said that people shouldn’t “eliminate” their social contacts entirely, but should half them over the next week and beyond that.

This echoes advice by Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, who have said that people should count up their close contacts over the last seven days, and cut that number by half over the next seven days and beyond that.

Dublin began a three-week stint in Level Three of a five-level Covid-19 alert plan, which means that pubs and restaurants can only serve customers outside, and that people are encouraged to work from home.

But the government is stressing that the increase in Covid-19 cases is country-wide: Glynn warned that Louth, Donegal and Waterford are seeing worrying trends:

  • Louth: The 14-day incidence was 53/100,000 last Sunday; it was 102/100,000 yesterday. There have been 131 cases in last fortnight
  • Donegal: The 14-day incidence was 26/100,000 last Sunday; it was 84/100,000 yesterday. There have been 133 cases in last fortnight
  • Waterford: The 14-day incidence was 55/100,000 last Sunday; it was 89/100,000 yesterday. There have been 103 cases in last fortnight.

At a press briefing today, Assistant Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan said that counties Limerick, Kildare, Leitrim, and Offaly are now also showing “concerning trends”. In Wicklow, cases have increased from 19 to 99 “over the last number of weeks”. 

If current trends continue, Canavan said that “based on the modeling it’s available to us”, nationwide there there will be between 500 and 1,000 cases per day in a month’s time, with 50 to 60% of that in Dublin.

Nolan, the chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that if the average number of Covid-19 cases stabalises in 10 days’ time, “that’s a really hopeful sign” that the current measures are working. 

“If in 10 days time that [average] is stabilizing… People should stay with us then, keep with us for the remainder of two-three weeks to see if we can get the trend downwards,” he said, adding that the virus tends to flare up very quickly and eliminates from the community more slowly.

He suggested that some Dublin businesses could open up in three weeks’ time and other counties could avoid further measures if this did prove to be effective in bringing the recent surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases under control. 

Yesterday there were 396 new Covid-19 cases confirmed, with 241 of them in Dublin. Nolan said that he was “just a little bit taken aback” when he saw those figures yesterday.

When asked if the increase in confirmed cases was a result of scaled up testing picking up asymptomatic and mild cases, Nolan said that this was partly true:

Three or four hundred cases today, is the equivalent of 100-130 cases back in March or April. 

He said that a seroprevalence study suggests that back in March and April, for every case detected, there were two other mild or asymptomatic cases undetected in the community.

He said that back in March or April, the mortality rate for people over the age of 65 was one-in-five, whereas now it’s one in 20. “That’s not negligible, this is still a lethal virus.” 

Commenting on the reopening of so-called wet pubs today, for the first time since March, Nolan said:

You can go to the pub – the question is should you, and how often?

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When asked about Ireland’s test-and-trace capacity, Nolan said that “we’ve got a very strong testing capacity”, and although testing was important, it’s not a substitution for the public health measures such as limiting contacts and to be careful when we do meet up with people.

The second line of defence is to test and trace to contracts, manage cases and outbreaks when they occur. But let nobody tell you that the latter is a substitute for the former.

Canavan said that “particular attention” will be paid in the coming months to the mental wellbeing of young people; and while saying that “responses would be put in place” through youth services, didn’t specify how this would be done.

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