Consultant warns public not to become complacent as Covid cases climb to 800 in Limerick in 17 days

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

DAILY numbers of Covid-19 cases have climbed to 800 in Limerick in the past 17 days, out of a total of 900 mid west cases, public health officials confirmed.

These include an increased number of asymptomatic cases, which has meant these previously unknown cases that had been circulating in the community have been identified and asked to isolate in order to try to curb the disease.

Latest figures released by the Department of Public Health Mid West showed that 60 cases were identified in the mid west on Tuesday, June 1, the majority of which (50) were in Limerick.

The number of covid-related deaths, if any, since late April/early May remained unknown in the region, due to difficulties in correlating information from the HSE’s centralised computer system due to it being hacked in a cyber attack last month.

The rollout of life-saving vaccines may have effectively halted the spread of the virus in the older population, however a senior Limerick clinician warned that any complacency in mask wearing or social distancing could have potentially serious consequences for younger adults.

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Dr Sarah O’Connell, the clinical COVID-19 lead for the UL Hospitals Group, said they were seeing adults, in their 40s and 50s, who did not have underlying conditions, and who were otherwise perilously well, requiring treatment in the hospital’s Covid respiratory ward.

“We do see some very severe cases from time to time in people who don’t have underlying conditions, and that is something I think the public should know,” said Dr O’Connell, a consultant in infectious diseases.

“It’s something that is very worrying for us, when we look after patients who have deteriorated, and who would have considered themselves to be well prior to becoming sick.”

“The majority are much younger now than what we would have seen previously, and for the most part some people have some underlying conditions,” added Dr O’Connell.

As the government’s planned phased economic reopening continued, local public health officials were investigating 53 cases in 28 workplaces, with an estimated associated 156 close contacts – the majority in Limerick.

Meanwhile, due to “significant queues at (two) testing clinics in Limerick (St Joseph’s health campus and in Ballysimon)”, people were advised “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 public health mid west spokesman.

In relation to outbreaks in workplaces, they 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. 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 surge of the virus in Limerick is “the sharpest increase in Covid-19 cases since before the onset of the ‘third wave’ in December” locally.

The upward trend 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 despite this, she said 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”.

Leaving Certificate students who find themselves to be “a new confirmed case or a new close contact will be at risk of missing exams”.