THE people of Limerick and the entire Mid-West region are being urged to hold firm and to use the Easter break as an opportunity to further stamp out Covid-19 in our communities, so we can reduce the chance of outbreaks in healthcare settings, workplaces, our homes, and schools.
The Mayor of the City and County of Limerick and the Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council have joined with their partners on the Mid-West Major Emergency Management Group in appealing for those across the region to continue to follow the health guidelines and current restrictions as efforts are ongoing to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The Mid-West Major Emergency Management Group is a strategic interagency group comprising the local authorities of Limerick City and County, Clare and Tipperary and the HSE, UL Hospitals Group and An Garda Síochána and meets regularly to discuss operations in the region since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While infection levels are significantly lower than they were in January, progress in suppressing the virus has stagnated.
Latest HSE figures show there’s been a total of 206 new cases of the disease reported in the city and county over the past fortnight, while the 14-day incidence rate is edging upwards.
Health experts say there is no single cause for the current levels of infection. Some areas of concern include lax behaviours in offices, such as lack of mask-wearing and poor social distancing; indoor social gatherings among young people, such as birthday parties; lack of social distancing and mask-wearing on public transport; family gatherings; and household visits.
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Collins said: “The people of Limerick and the wider region must be commended for the part they have played in helping to stop the spread of the virus. The restrictions are very hard for some and are definitely draining for all but we must hold firm and have one final push to suppress the virus.”
“It’s not been easy for many but we are beginning to turn the corner in the fight against the virus. I’m urging everyone to please remain home and stay within your 5k limit this Easter, so that we may enjoy brighter times ahead with our loved ones perhaps as early as this summer.”
Dr Pat Daly, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council said: “Firstly I’d like to wish the people of Limerick a very Happy Easter. The Easter break is a time of year where people tend to socialise more, but with our current levels of infection, this means that we must continue to following the health guidelines and remain socially distanced and within our 5km limit, so that we continue to protect families and our most vulnerable.”
“I understand the fatigue felt by everyone at this stage, but we must remember that our efforts have helped prevent additional illness and death and that we need to make this extra effort to ensure we can get back to normal as soon as possible.”
Since the start of March, there have only been five days where there have been fewer than 10 new cases in Limerick. Additionally, Limerick’s 14-day incidence rate saw a slight increase from 95.4 per 100,000 population to 105.7 in the past week.
Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West said: “Non-compliance with Public Health guidelines in workplaces, and small to large social gatherings and household visits continue to keep our infection rates at a stubbornly high level.”
“The B117 variant has resulted in the rapid spread of Covid-19, but largely in settings where people are not wearing masks, socially distancing, or spending too long together. This Easter, remember the simplest of measures to protect yourself from this virus could prevent a local business from temporarily closing and help avoid a serious outbreak in your household and community.”
A large Garda operation plan is planned for the weekend.
Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche of the Limerick Garda Division explained: “Figures for Covid-19 are higher than was expected, there is a fear that these numbers will rise over the Easter break. Yes, there will be extra checkpoints and Garda patrols of our amenities and beauty spots here in Limerick, yes Gardaí have issued a large number of fines on the spot but that should not be the reason you stay within your 5km.”
“Gardaí are appealing to people to adhere to the restrictions because it’s the safest action to take, it will keep the number of infections down and it could save lives The vaccines are here, there is light at the end of the tunnel so this Easter and every day for another short period of time please protect yourself and others by staying within your 5km.”
Meanwhile, UL Hospitals Group is currently embarking on the return of non-Covid patient services that had been stood down or curtailed across its sites in response to the early 2021 surge in infection.
As the vaccination programme rolls out, everyone must continue to practise distancing and the other simple public health measures that remain our main defence against a fourth wave, and illnesses, hospitalisations and deaths on the scale experienced by our community in January and February.
Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group said: “Easter is traditionally a time of renewal and hope, and we do look forward to the ongoing reintroduction of our hospital services, not only in service to but also in solidarity with, the people of the Mid-West, who have done so much to hold back the spread of COVID-19 in our communities over the past two months and throughout this pandemic.”