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*Photograph: Sean Curtin / True Media

Clare has recorded 31 new cases of COVID-19 among the 2,608 nationally, an additional 51 deaths are known while numbers in hospital and critical care have hit their peak and will begin to slowly reduce.

Within the space of one week, Clare’s 14 day incidence rate per 100k of the population has dropped from 1578.1 to 1093.3. The county has recorded 31 new positive cases of Coronavirus.

Across the country, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been notified of a further 2,608 cases, 39 percent of which are in Dublin. Of the 2,608 cases, 1,019 are in Dublin, 204 in Cork, 135 in Donegal, 132 in Galway, 131 in Kildare, and the remaining 987 cases are spread across all other counties.

A median age of 80 years old has been observed among the 51 further COVID-19 deaths recorded, 49 of the deaths occurred in January. The age range is from 58 to 103.

Higher reported daily deaths is a trend that is expected to continue over the coming days, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer flagged. Dr Ronan Glynn said adherence to public health advice “will directly save lives”.

Speaking at Thursday’s press briefing from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), Professor Philip Nolan stated that admissions to hospitals “have peaked”, data and modelling suggests that numbers in critical care are “beginning to plateau”. It is expected that the numbers will take “a long time” to come down, he flagged. As of 2pm today, 1,943 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 214 are in ICU. 105 additional hospitalisations were noted in the past 24 hours.

When restrictions were last eased on December 1st there was a five day moving average of 261 cases per day, “it is almost ten times that number at 2,430 cases per day,” the Chief Medical Officer observed. “A very large burden of infection” still exists, Dr Tony Holohan outlined.

He added, “It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease. However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths. We need to continue to work together to drive this infection down and bring the disease back under control”.

Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Prof Nolan added that the incidence was “gradually falling” but remained “very high across all age groups but particularly in those aged 85 and older. A considerable effort by all of us to cut down on contacts has resulted in the R number reducing to 0.5 – 0.8. We have to keep it below 1.0 if we are to successfully emerge out of this current wave”.

On Thursday, the HSE published the results of the PRECISE study, which looked at antibodies to COVID-19 in healthcare workers in two Irish hospitals. In St James’s Hospital, 15% of staff had antibodies for COVID-19 while 4.1% of staff in University Hospital Galway had antibodies.

A repeat of the study will be conducted in the spring “to see how seroprevalence changes with successive waves of the pandemic, and how antibody status changes in the individuals who participate both times. The second round of testing will also look at vaccine response versus natural infection, given recent commencement of the national vaccination programme,” Dr Lorraine Doherty, National Clinical Director for Health Protection HSE, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) commented.

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