Sharp rise in new cases of Coronavirus

First vaccine administered, though local healthcare workers still in the dark about roll-out plan here

New Covid cases have risen sharply in County Cavan in the past week, though the virus doesn’t appear to be spreading quite as rapidly here as in other border counties.

A total of 173 new cases have been reported in the county in the 14 days up to midnight on Sunday, December 27, the latest county figures available at the time of going to print. Thirty-one of those cases were reported on Christmas Day alone.

The figures translate to an incidence rate of 227.1 per 100,000 of population. The national average is 220.1/100K.

The update comes as the first vaccines were administered in four acute hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway yesterday (Tuesday) with plans to begin the national vaccination programme in nursing homes from next Monday.

The Breffni county’s infection rate has jumped from 177.2 on December 20 to 227.1/100K on December 27, when the HPSC was notified of 765 new confirmed cases nationally.

According to the latest available data published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) Donegal has the highest incidence rate on 425.3/100K, while Monaghan sits on 384.5/100K and Louth on 342.2/100K at the top of the chart in terms of the prevalence of the virus.

North of the border, the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area continues to have one of the highest Covid rates in all of the North, with more than 7,300 cases were recorded between December 14-27.

Further rises expected

It’s feared within the medical community that the numbers of confirmed cases may only be the tip of the iceberg in many counties, with numbers expected to grow further in the coming days as testing returns to full capacity following the festive period.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, warned the virus is increasing its foothold in communities.

“Please come forward for testing if you feel unwell. Know the symptoms of COVID-19, and do not delay in phoning your GP for advice. Self-isolate in your room if you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath or change in sense of taste/smell. If you are a household contact of a confirmed case, you should restrict your movements for 14 days even if your own test is reported as COVID ‘not detected’.”

To date, there have been a total of 86,894 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland, with 2,205 related deaths.

Rise in cases

The rise in Covid cases is reflected in the number of new Covid-related admissions to Cavan General Hospital, which as of December 28 stands at nine, with two of those occurring over Christmas.

The hospital has successfully dealt with two outbreaks of the virus among partients and staff already this year, and more recently saw Covid positive patient numbers peak in the high 30s.

Meanwhile,the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine were administered in Ireland in four acute hospitals yesterday, December 29.

A Dublin grandmother-of-10 named Annie (79) was the first person in the country to get the vaccine, administered at St James’s Hospital.

Local vaccines

There is still no detail as yet on when vaccines will be first administered locally, but the National Immunisation Advisory Committee is dictating that further roll-out will be managed initially in healthcare settings after some reports of minor allergic reaction in the UK and US.

Up to 14 million vaccine doses have been purchased for Ireland.

The plan is to vaccinate up to 20,000 people a week from early January, with this figure then increasing to 40,000 over the course of the month as greater supply of the jab comes on stream.

Older residents in long-term residential care facilities, such as nursing homes, and frontline healthcare workers are being prioritised, followed by people aged 70 and above; other healthcare workers; people aged 65-69; key workers; people at risk due to medical conditions; and those living or working in crowded conditions.

The next in the queue are people working in education; those aged 55-64; essential workers; people aged between 18 and 54; and, finally, pregnant women and those under the age of 18.

A wider rollout of vaccinations is not expected to take place until late Spring into early Summer, while a communications campaign aimed at tackling misinformation is also set to be aired.

Meanwhile, the HSE is progressing plans for an alternative site to the Ballinagh Health Centre for carrying out Covid testing in Cavan.

A lease agreement for the chosen site is expected to be finalised in the first quarter of 2021. It is not known yet whether the facility, once operational, will form part of the Government’s vaccine programme.