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'The window for it not to be a national issue is closing': Worry as Covid-19 incidence rate rises nationwide

At a briefing this evening a number of examples were described where the virus was spread in social settings.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS have warned that the window to bring the spread of Covid-19 back under control is closing fast while also warning of the devastating long-term impact of the virus on younger people who contract it.

Acting CMO Dr Ronan Glynn and Chair of NPHET’s epidemiological group Professor Philip Nolan made the comments at a briefing at the Department of Health this evening. 

It comes after a further 429 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland with a number of counties continuing to see an increase in transmission in recent days. 

“The window of opportunity for it not to be a national issue is closing,” Glynn said. 

“And that’s why I’m appealing to all sectors, all counties, all organisations, all parts of society, to act like its the end of February 2020 and to take all measures to reduce social contacts.”

“Unfortunately you can see the numbers are rising nationally, albeit at a relatively slow pace relative to what were seeing in many parts of the world and in parts of Europe, but unfortunately it is going in one direction.”

Asked how long before nationwide restrictions would be needed to curb the spread of the virus, Glynn said: “Im not going to speculate on that tonight but we look at the data on an ongoing basis… there are 13o people in our hospitals tonight, 15 in the last 24 hours, so that’s a worrying trend and we’ll monitor it closely.”

Young people

Meanwhile, Professor Nolan warned that the number of hospitalisations of younger people as a result of the virus has risen and warned against buying into any narrative that suggests young people are more immune to the virus than older people. 

“There has been a lot of narrative in a wide variety of quarters about the disease being less severe, less dangerous than it might have been in the past… the bottom line is this virus is as fatal as it ever was and to some sectors of society and the young are vulnerable to this virus in a different way but in an important way,” he said. 

“Since the 1 August to midnight on 28 September there has been 9,632 cases notified, 269 of those were admitted to hospital… of those – 153 – almost 60% were under 65 and 56, or one in five were under 40, so young people ar unfortunately being hospitalised with this disease. 

“There were 30 admitted to ICU, of those 22 or three quarters were under 65 and four were under 40, so again that’s severe disease in younger people. 

“The mortality in this disease is not confined to the elderly and fortunately, among older people aged 75 and over, the fatality rate ow is running at around 5%, or one in 20, so we’re seeing few cases, relatively few cases in older people and therefore [...] relatively few deaths. 

“So the reproduction number, we estimate as being between 1.2 and 1.4… perhaps a little bit lower than last week but not reflecting what has gone on in the last two to three days.”

At the briefing this evening, HSE Director of Public Health Medicine Dr Breda Smyth also pointed to a number of examples where the virus was spread in social settings, with dozens testing positive as a result. 

In one case, a couple – aged between 25 and 35 – went on a weekend away. 

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The couple attended a house party on their first night with 8 other people, 6 of whom later tested positive for Covid-19. 

The couple stayed overnight with a family of 4 people, 3 of whom later tested positive for Covid-19. Three more social contacts of the family later tested positive. 

One of the couple then attended a dinner party with four friends, all of whom later tested positive. 

In the restaurant, all six people at the adjacent table later tested positive as well as four staff members. 

The person later attended drinks with another four friends, all of whom later tested positive.

“This virus is very unpredictable,” said Dr Smyth, adding that measures in the restaurant were adhered to. “It’s very hard to define how it passes from one person to another.”

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