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Upcoming weeks represent Mid-West’s greater test vs COVID-19 as 574 UL Hospitals staff out of work

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*Photograph: Sean Curtin / True Media

Over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Co Clare over the space of seven days.

In what is the quickest growth of the virus in the county since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 1,129 new confirmed cases for the county were notified to health officials from the period of January 4th to January 11th.

As of Tuesday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) confirmed that Clare’s 14 day incidence rate per 100k of the population has heat an all-time high of 1498.1 and remains above the national rate of 1410.3.

Up to 574 members of staff at UL Hospitals Group were unavailable for work due to COVID-19, 201 nurses and attendants at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) are affected.

Multi-layered socialising by a proportion of the population during, before and after Christmas has led to the rapid spread of infection. Outbreaks were recorded in various social settings, including private households, among extended families, large house gatherings, the hospitality sector, and in workplaces. Preliminary evidence from cases identified in social settings and in the community in December have been contributing factors in a number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities and healthcare settings.

New outbreaks in workplaces are also being managed. While the vast majority of workplaces are adhering to strict guidelines, particularly in relation to engagement with the public, some workplaces are dropping the guard when it comes to staff contact, the Department of Public Health have said. Instances where staff are not wearing masks or are in close contact in break rooms. These practices should no longer happen, as they can and will lead to workplace outbreaks.

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “We are now seeing the impact of this third wave in our community, as we focus our efforts on managing complex cases and outbreaks in nursing homes and residential care facilities across the region. Our focus right now is to break the chain of transmission so we can limit the spread among our most vulnerable population, and to prevent further loss of life in the coming weeks”. She expected the next few weeks would be the Mid-West’s “greatest test since the start of the pandemic”.

Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) said the onus is on the public to alleviate the pressure on the healthcare system by following all guidelines and staying home. “There is a need for us all to keep up the good fight and try support communities and individuals and promote that it is in our hands to keep safe”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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