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*Photograph: John Mangan

114 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Co Clare among the 4,929 across the country.

Average daily case counts have “stabilised”, the Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group stated on Monday evening as 4,929 new cases were announced. 1,513 of these are in Dublin, 695 in Cork, 320 in Limerick, 305 in Wexford, 225 in Galway and the remaining 1,871 cases are spread across all other counties.

Clare has recorded 114 further cases of the virus. The county’s 14 day incidence rate per 100k of the population is at 1427.4 and remains above the national rate.

Validation of data on figures provided on Sunday showed a slight reduction in the figures announced for Clare. Provisional figures showed 208 new cases for the county, this figure has now been revised and shows a decrease to 195.

An additional eight deaths have been notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre bringing the country’s death toll to 2,352.

As of 2pm on Monday, 146 persons were in intensive care and a further 1,436 were receiving treatment for Coronavirus in hospitals. 156 hospitalisations were observed in the past 24 hours.

Professor Philip Nolan told this evening’s press briefing that 1 in 76 people have had the virus over the past fortnight. “The alarming level of disease is unprecedented in terms of our experience of the levels of COVID-19 in the community. We are seeing numbers of cases per day, and numbers in hospital, that we just could not have comprehended prior to Christmas. The tools to address this accelerated growth rate are in our hands and we know from experience how we can significantly suppress transmission of the virus.

“We are beginning to see the first signs of the impact of the latest public health measures, with test positivity falling and case numbers starting to stabilise, but this will only continue if every one of us is committed to following the public health advice to stay at home and work from home as much as possible. This is vital in order to make significant headway over the next 7 days and to reduce the pressure on our health services and healthcare colleagues,” he said.

A “glimmer of hope” is visible with regards to daily case figures and positivity rates, the Chief Medical Officer noted but cautioned, “the situation in hospitals and ICUs around the country continues to worsen day on day. We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again. That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better.”

Recent weeks have seen “a swift and sharp spike in admissions” to critical care, Dr Michael Power, HSE Clinical Lead for Intensive Care outlined. “As of this morning, we have 146 people sadly in ICU. This is nearing the springtime peak of 155 people in critical care. The potential long-term impacts on these patients’ health is stark and significant. ICUs are not where we want anyone to be. They are our very last line of defence against COVID-19. The best way we can protect our ICU capacity and those that work in them is to stay at home”.

Testing has indicated that the UK variant continues to account for an increasing amount of new cases. “More than 40% of the positive cases tested in the last 7 days can be traced back to this variant. The greater risk of infection posed by this new variant increases the risk of transmission of the disease in the community. Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need for vigilance in our individual response to the disease, which is spread through close proximity to others. This virus cannot spread when households do not mix together, when social gatherings do not occur and when people stay at home for all but essential reasons,” Dr Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory explained.

Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, Professor Karina Butler believed the authorisation of the second COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna) for Europe was a source of further hope. The “Astra Zeneca approval process gives us cause for hope for rapid community vaccination against COVID-19 in coming months”.

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