Public anxiety about Covid-19 has risen again to levels not seen since last April, public health officials have said.
Three out of four people now say they think Ireland will experience a second wave of infections, according to research carried out for the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
A further 102 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been notified to NPHET, it said on Monday evening. This brings to 29,774 the total number of cases of the disease in the Republic.
No further deaths were reported, leaving the total number of deaths at 1,777.
Some 56 of the new cases are in Dublin while 11 are in Leitrim and six in Galway.
Over the past fortnight, Dublin has accounted for 47 per cent of cases, Kildare for 8 per cent and Limerick for 7 per cent.
“We are monitoring with growing concern the number of cases nationally, particularly in Limerick and Dublin,” said Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer. “The next seven days are vital; everyone needs to reduce their contacts and assume any person you do meet may be carrying the virus.”
Expressing concern about the trends in Dublin and Limerick, Dr Glynn said people in both counties needed to cut down their social contacts by ensuring gatherings of six indoors and 15 outdoors were “absolute maximums”.
There are currently 49 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including six in intensive care.
The public, while generally showing a good knowledge about infection control measures for the virus, is underestimating the difference it makes to be outdoors rather than indoors when socialising, according to Prof Pete Lunn, of NPHET’s behavioural research unit.
Christmas and Halloween
Research into public behaviours has also shown that people do not respond quickly enough when someone shows Covid-like symptoms, he said.
Urging people to immediately ring their GP if they have concerns over symptoms, he also advised people to plan for the challenge of getting through the winter when the virus is circulating.
“Now is the time to plan for the winter months ahead. Take control of your own environment by ensuring your household is up to date on, and actioning, the public health advice. Make it a habit to get outside, to socialise and exercise safely and automatically physically distance from others. Adapt to Covid-responsible behaviours in and out of the home.
“Plan for the milestones; such as Halloween, Christmas and New Years Eve within a Covid-19 environment. Be innovative in how you can celebrate safely with loved ones.
“This year will bring added challenges so prioritise your mental and physical health, know how you will invest in them each week.
“Choose your close network of social visitors this winter and prioritise members of your family or friends who may be more isolated.”
Prof Lunn said people should focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot do, and should focus on “quality rather than quantity” if they need to restrict their social activity.
Dr Glynn was critical of a projection by US academics that Ireland could suffer another 1,200 deaths by the end of the year if mask-wearing did not become universal. He said the modelling was done in another country on a set of metrics “taken out of context”.
However, he warned people needed to improve the way they wear face-coverings, and said “too many” people are wearing face visors, which were originally intended as a limited alternative to masks.
NPHET will give guidance in relation to Halloween and Christmas closer to those dates, he said, adding that he did not want to send out any message that NPHET was cancelling these events.
“I am sure closer to the time we can give advice around that, but we have not given any specific consideration to trick or treating as yet.”
NPHET plans to provide more contextual information about Covid-19 trends in the future, he added, and it understood that the daily release of case figures could a source of anxiety for some people.
Two new clusters have been reported in residential care facilities in the past week, including one in a nursing home. There are six new clusters in workplaces, none of them in meat plants.
More people are being infected with Covid-19 in the health system currently than from overseas travel, new figures show.
Some 120 people – 51 patients and 69 staff – acquired the virus in a healthcare setting over the past fortnight, the latest report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows.
This compares with 119 travel-related cases notified to the HPSC over the period, a figure that includes people who acquired the disease abroad and those who in turn acquired it from them.
A total of 1,717 cases were identified over the 14-day period, of which the largest category was the 872 people who were close contacts of confirmed cases. Some 387 cases involve community transmission, meaning the source of the infection is not known, while 220 cases remain under investigation.
In Dublin, the 14-day incidence of the disease has risen to 60.2 per 100,000 population (811 cases). Kildare and Limerick have higher incidences (66.5 and 61.6) but the incidence in Dublin West is higher still, at 74. Only five countries in Europe have a higher incidence than this.
While new cases were recorded in all Irish counties, Sligo had fewer than five, giving a country-wide low incidence of 3.1. The national incidence is 36.06.
Over the fortnight, 59 patients were hospitalised and three required admission to ICU. There were 191 cases among healthcare workers.
The HPSC’s latest epidemiological report shows 73 cases occurred among 65-74 year-olds, 54 among 75-84 year-old and 29 among those aged over 85.
No deaths were recorded over the period.
Ireland has the joint lowest death rate from Covid-19 in Europe at present, according to new data.
Along with seven other countries, Ireland has a 14-day cumulative death rate of zero per 100,000 population, the latest update from the European Centre for Disease Control shows.
The other countries with a death rate of zero are Austria, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Cyprus and Liechtenstein.