Third Covid wave confirmed as cases almost double in five days

There have been no new Covid-related deaths reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre today.

As of midnight on Sunday, the HPSC registered 727 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 80,267. Six of today's cases were in County Cavan.

There were 135 cases confirmed in the Breffni county in the 14 days up to midnight on Sunday. It translates to an incidence rate of 177.2 cases per 100,000 of population. The national average is 122.4/100K. Cavan is currently ranked sixth nationwide in terms of the prevalence of the virus. The worst affected county remains Donegal with a rate of 273.9 cases per 100,000 of population.

Of the other cases notified today:

- 359 are men / 366 are women

- 62% are under 45 years of age

- The median age is 36 years old

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

As of 2 pm today, 241 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, 29 of which are in ICU. There were a total of 18 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: “Our current disease trends are gravely concerning. The situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent days.

"A total of 3,837 cases have been notified in the past seven days. The five day rolling average has increased from 339 on 17th December to 616 on 21st December, an 82% increase.

"It is now as important as it was back in March to limit your contacts and protect your loved ones.”

Dr Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive, Health Products Regulatory Authority, said: “Today we welcome a highly significant announcement from the European Medicines Agency in their recommendation to approve a first vaccine for Covid-19 in Europe.

"It is a key development in our continued efforts to tackling this pandemic. This will become one additional defence in our suite of public health actions to protect us from Covid-19.”

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said: “The virus is transmitting very rapidly, faster than we have seen at any point since March.

"The case numbers are growing at least 5-7% per day and, of particular concern, across all age groups.”

He added: "We are clearly now in a third wave of this pandemic, with very rapidly rising case numbers."

Dr Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said: “To date, the novel SARS-CoV-2 UK variant has not been detected in Ireland.

"However, as we know the variant has been circulating in the UK since September, therefore we cannot exclude the possibility that the variant is already in Ireland. We are prioritising the sequencing of cases with confirmed or suspected links to the UK.”