Friday, March 12, 2021

By Michael McHugh, PA

More people travelling and going back to their workplaces could increase coronavirus infection levels in coming weeks, public health experts in Ireland said.

Progress in reducing infection rates has stalled while the country remains at Level 5 restrictions.

About 60 per cent of people are going to work compared with a quarter during the first lockdown.

Another 10 people have died with Covid-19 in Ireland, Nphet has said, as it called for a few more months of effort.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “Now is not the moment to take the foot off the brake.”

A further 592 cases were confirmed.

Professor Philip Nolan, modelling the spread of the disease for the Government, said: “We are seeing continued, slow progress across all indicators of Covid-19.

“There are some concerning trends in the data and as the incidence remains high, our situation is precarious.

“Increases in mobility and workplace attendance could potentially increase infection in the coming weeks.”

The R number rate of reproduction of the virus is estimated as stable, at 0.6-1.

Professor Nolan added: “At the minute the number of close contacts for confirmed cases remains low.

“That mobility is not necessarily turning into high-risk close contacts.”

He said there was a high degree of uncertainty.

“It is essential over the next few weeks that we stay home, continue to limit our contacts and suppress transmission.”

He added: “We are seeing that increase in mobility.

“People are staying at home less and more people are present in workplaces.”

Last April only a quarter of employees attended as normal — that has risen to 60 per cent.

Professor Nolan added: “Any deviation right now from staying at home, work from home and be very careful when you have to leave the home, puts the achievements of the last six to eight weeks at risk.”

The number of daily hospital admissions is running at around 20-30.

The 359 people in hospital at present is higher than the highest number in October.

Professor Nolan added: “It is a very high number, higher than we saw at any other point in the pandemic except for April.”

Thursday marks one year since medics reported Ireland’s first death related to Covid-19.

More than 4,500 people have lost their lives with this disease.

On Thursday Nphet endorsed new guidance which allows for more regular nursing home visiting. The new guidance comes into effect from March 22.

Professor Martin Cormican, clinical lead for antimicrobial resistance and infection control at the HSE, said: “Under the new guidance, residents may be facilitated to receive two visits per week on general compassionate grounds.

“This will be possible following two weeks after a high proportion of residents and healthcare workers have been vaccinated. There is no requirement to limit visits to less than one hour.”

Nursing home residents have been particularly affected by the severity of restrictions.

Professor Cormican added: “Thanks to vaccination we are delighted to be in a position to recommend new guidance and hopefully relieve residents and their families of some of the isolation they have endured for so long.”

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