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Nine new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Co Clare as leading health officials have stated the country is in its third wave of the pandemic.

Across the nation, there are 727 new cases. 311 are in Dublin, 51 in Kilkenny, 48 in Wexford, 44 in Donegal, 44 in Cork and the remaining 229 cases are spread across 19 other counties including 9 in Co Clare. It is the highest increase in Clare since 28 new cases were diagnosed on November 15th.

Clare’s 14 day incidence rate per 100k of the population has increased to 32 but remains the second lowest in the country. The national rate continues to increase, it is now 122.4.

No new deaths have been notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The death toll in the Republic of Ireland from COVID-19 stands at 2,158.

Speaking on Monday evening, Professor Phillip Nolan stated, “We are now clearing in a third wave”.

Transmission of the disease is occurring “faster than we have seen at any point since March,” he said. “The case numbers are growing at least 5-7% per day and, of particular concern, across all age groups.”

According to the Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, the disease is increasing across the entire population. He expressed his concern that this is affecting the elder members of the population. Prof Nolan said older people caught the virus in the first wave “to devastating effects”, they were protected in the second wave but warned that the level of infection was increasing “rapidly”.

As of 2pm today 241 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 29 are in ICU. 18 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours. Prof Nolan outlined that the numbers in ICU and deaths were not decreasing.

Current modelling data suggests up to 900 daily cases will be announced by December 30th and 1600 by January 6th.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan appealed to the public not to go to pubs or restaurants. “Rethink your plan that might have you meeting up with older members of your family,” he commented of individuals that have been actively socialising in recent days. “The most responsible thing you can do is stay at home”.

Chief Executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, Dr Lorraine Nolan welcomed “a highly significant announcement from the European Medicines Agency in their recommendation to approve a first vaccine for COVID-19 in Europe. It is a key development in our continued efforts to tackling this pandemic. This will become one additional defence in our suite of public health actions to protect us from COVID-19”.

Dr Holohan described the current disease trends as “gravely concerning”. He stated, “The situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent days. A total of 3,837 cases have been notified in the past 7 days. The five day rolling average has increased from 339 on 17th December to 616 on 21st December, an 82% increase. It is now as important as it was back in March to limit your contacts and protect your loved ones.”

No detection of the novel SARS-CoV-2 UK variant has been observed in the country, Dr. Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said. He added, “However, as we know the variant has been circulating in the UK since September, therefore we cannot exclude the possibility that the variant is already in Ireland. We are prioritising the sequencing of cases with confirmed or suspected links to the UK”.

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