A surge of more than 840 cases of COVID-19 has been identified in the mid west region, including 740 plus cases in Limerick over the past two weeks or so.
And, three weeks on from the Taoiseach’s announcement on May 10th of a further phased reopening of many businesses, Public Health Mid West said it is investigating 53 cases in 28 workplaces, with an estimated associated 156 close contacts – the majority of which are in Limerick.
Over 200 cases were identified last week in Limerick followed by 59 cases yesterday.
Due to “significant queues at (two) testing clinics in Limerick”, Public Health Mid West advised people in Limerick “to explore the options of availing self-referral walk-in clinics at the Former Castlebrand Factory in Nenagh (9am to 7.45pm), and Block 1 Ballymalley Business Park in Ennis (12pm to 6.40pm)”.
The test centres are for people with Covid symptoms as well as for people who are concerned that they may have been exposed to Covid infection in the past two weeks.
Children can also get tested if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, and, people must bring a photo ID and provide testers with a mobile phone number to be contacted about test results.
“We continue to manage new outbreaks in small retailers, hair salons, and beauticians, offices, and factories over the past two weeks, so it is important to be vigilant for symptoms of Covid and if in doubt, go for a Covid test,” said a spokesman.
In relation to outbreaks in workplaces, Public Health said the latest advice on face masks is that workers “should wear them from the carpark to the desk at all times, even with distancing at work”.
“Wearing face coverings is one of he most essential defences against the spread of the infection, and can prevent outbreaks at work,” it added.
“In communal offices, it will help if you all wear face masks, even while sitting at the desk and even if there are Perspex screens or partitions.”
The latest numbers of people becoming infected with the virus in Limerick is “the sharpest increase in Covid-19 cases since before the onset of the ‘third wave’ in December”.
The increase in cases is being linked to “high-risk social indoor activity, including house parties, family and extended family gatherings and events, small to large household gatherings” as well as “multi-household clusters as a result of social mixing” and “poor and inconsistent infection prevention and control practices at workplaces”.
Outbreaks in creches and schools in the region have been linked to “social activity outside the school setting” and there is evidence that “some children are attending school while infectious with mild symptoms”.
Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said “the figures are of serious concern as we face increasing pressure amid the cyber attack”.
However, Dr Mannis said, despite this, she remained “hopeful that a strong community response of availing of walk-in testing, and being extra cautious with public health guidelines, will put us in a more secure position in the coming weeks”.
She said any Leaving Certificate student “who is a new confirmed case or a new close contact will be at risk of missing exams”.