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*Photograph: John Mangan

12 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Clare among 921 nationally with an additional 23 deaths recorded.

Extra diagnoses in the county have seen its 14 day incidence rate rise from the third lowest in the Republic of Ireland to the fourth lowest at a figure of 134.7.

In a statement on Friday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) stated that 12 new cases of the virus were known in Clare. These figures will be validated by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and will be confirmed on Saturday.

Across the country, 921 more persons have tested positive for COVID-19 with 414 in Dublin, 87 in Cork, 51 in Kildare, 48 in Limerick, 47 in Meath and the remaining 274 cases are spread across all other counties.

An additional 23 deaths have been notified to the HPSC, 21 of which occurred in February and two last month. The median age of those who died was 84 years and the age range was 57 – 95 years. Four deaths have been de-notified.

Health officials stated that as of 8am on Friday, 173 persons were in critical care, they are included in the figure of 959 currently in hospital. A total of 53 extra hospitalisations were recorded in the past 24 hours.

As of Tueesday, 248,284 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ireland, 158,904 people have received their first dose and 89,380 people have received their second dose.

“We have made progress in Ireland over recent weeks, but the rate of transmission of the disease is still extremely high and the risks COVID-19 poses to our vulnerable loved ones have not changed,” the Deputy Chief Medical Officer stated on Friday evening.

Dr Ronan Glynn added, “Everyone is working hard to drive down COVID-19 infection in the community, and we must all continue to limit the number of daily contacts we have. The only way to limit the spread of COVID-19 is to limit our social contacts and follow the public health advice, wash our hands, maintain a social distance, wear a face covering where appropriate, work from home and stay at home”.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (FF) has added an additional 18 states to the list of ‘high-risk’ countries. Passengers arriving from these countries must complete a mandatory 14-day period of self-quarantine.

Under Regulations signed into law on February 5, the Minister for Health, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, can specify additional states as ‘Category 2’ states. Brazil and the Republic of South Africa have been on the list since February 5, 2021. The National Oversight Group for Variants of Concern has advised of additional high-risk countries.

Dr Holohan advised the Minister for Health that more stringent restrictions on travel should now also be applied to the following states, Angola, Austria, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Eswatini, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Minister Donnelly said “Under the current Level 5 restrictions nobody should be engaging in non-essential travel at this time. These stringent measures on people arriving to Ireland from 20 states are necessary in responding to the risks posed by variants of concern.

He continued, “People who arrive in Ireland must now complete a full mandatory 14-day period of self-quarantine if they have been in any of these states in the previous 14 days. The Government will shortly consider legislation that will require such passengers arriving here to complete this quarantine at a designated facility.”

The Minister for Justice is examining the question of changes to visa arrangements in respect of applicable states being added to the schedule 2 list.

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