Ireland grappling with third Covid wave, public health experts warn

Coronavirus Dublin Credit: PA Wire / PA Images

Ireland is grappling with a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s public health experts have warned.

The chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said the cases were rising rapidly and it was almost certainly due to the increase in people socialising.

Professor Philip Nolan said: “We’re clearly now in a third wave of this pandemic, with very rapidly rising case numbers.”

He said the five-day moving average had increased from an average of over 300 cases per day to more than 600 cases in the course of one week. It now stands at 616 cases per day.

“In the seven days to midnight Saturday we recorded 3,373 cases and in the preceding week 1,968 cases. That’s an increase of 71%,” he said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the latest wave of cases was happening much sooner than anticipated and he urged people to stay at home and stop socialising.

He said now was not the time for going out to restaurants and pubs as the situation was changing “very quickly”.

He said it was also not the time to be travelling across the country.

“The chance of you running into the virus out there in the community if you continue to socialise is high and is getting higher,” he said.

“The most sensible thing you can do now is stay at home with the people you live with.

“Try and limit your social contact with other people as much as possible, have as safe a Christmas as possible to try and protect those people who are most vulnerable.

“In particular, to try and limit what is clearly a rapidly increasing incidence in what is now a third wave, happening much, much sooner after the last one.”

He added that it was spreading across all age groups.

Their assessment comes as an additional 727 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland on Monday, bringing the national total to 80,267 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

Of the new cases, 311 were in Dublin, 51 in Kilkenny, 48 in Wexford, 44 in Donegal, 44 in Cork and the remaining 229 cases are spread across 19 other counties.

No further deaths linked to the virus were recorded.

As of 2pm on Monday, there were 241 people in hospital with the virus, including 29 in intensive care units.

The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 now stands at 122.

Dr Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, welcomed the European Medicines Agency’s recommendation of conditional approval for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech to be used across the EU.

The EU drug regulator said the vaccine should be licensed for use in people over the age of 16 with some exceptions.

Dr Nolan said: “This is a highly significant and welcome announcement. It is a key development in our continued efforts to tackling this pandemic.”

But she cautioned that it was not the silver bullet to eradicate the virus and that it was important the public continued to follow public health advice.

Dr Holohan also said the vaccines represented a significant positive development but that it would not be the end of the measures in place over the coming months.

“It’s very important that we maintain the high levels of practice we have as we begin to roll this vaccine out and give it to high priority groups,” he said.