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*Photograph: John Mangan

Ireland’s reproduction number of COVID-19 is at its highest since March with 939 new cases diagnosed, nine of which are in Co Clare.

Co Clare continues to have the second lowest 14 day incidence rate per 100k of the population (41.2). Nine new cases are known in the county among the 938 nationally, 300 are in Dublin, 110 in Cork, 72 in Limerick, 68 in Donegal, 41 in Kildare and the remaining 338 cases are spread across 20 other counties. Eleven cases have been de-notified.

An additional thirteen deaths have been alerted to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

In terms of hospitalisations, 24 persons were admitted to Irish hospitals with the virus over the past 24 hours. 251 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated, 25 of which are in ICU.

Over the course of two days, there has been an increased deterioration, Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group outlined. “The reproduction number is higher than we have reported since March at 1.5 – 1.8. The day on day growth rate is estimated at 7 – 9%. These data emphasise the need for us to be exceptionally careful over Christmas and to adhere strictly to public health guidance”.

Further recommendations have been made by NPHET to the Government, Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer confirmed. “Every indicator of the disease is rising and rising rapidly. Our level of concern continues to escalate. We must do all we can individually and collectively to change the course of this disease. Revise your Christmas plans to ensure social contacts are limited and that hand hygiene, physical distance, ventilation and face covering measures are in place if you must have visitors to your home”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn cautioned, “The epidemiological situation reviewed today is the most serious it has been since last March. People should act at all times as if they or those they come into contact with are infectious. The disease has spread across all parts of the country and all age groups, we must act now to protect each other. It is inevitable that people will get sick and die as a result of this escalation, but it is not too late for all of us to do all we can to minimise that impact and to protect as many people as possible.”

Preliminary data has suggested based on samples from the weekend that the UK variant is present in Ireland, Dr Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory stated. “However, given the timeline of the samples analysed, it would seem that the novel variant is not solely responsible for the recent increase in case numbers seen in Ireland,” he commented.

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