“Things will get worse before they get better” — Health chief warning comes as Covid cases climb to over 1000 in Limerick region

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FEARS are growing of a potential increase in younger adults being hospitalised due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in the Limerick region, as case numbers climbed to over 1,000 in the mid-west over the past 17 days.

Figures released today by Public Health Mid West show 103 cases were identified yesterday in Limerick – the biggest surge on daily cases there in several months.

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Almost 900 cases have been identified in Limerick since May 16th, as testing facilities ramped up in the city and county.

“Things will get worse before they get better, but we are hopeful we will overcome this outbreak with the help of the public availing of walk-in testing and adhering to Public Health guidelines,” said Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid West.

The sharp rise in cases comes on the back of increased testing facilities including a free pop up clinic at St Joseph’s Street Health Campus on Mulgrave Street, which will run until at least next Wednesday.

“With regards the high incidence rate in Limerick, we are currently going through a period of active case finding, allowing us to track, trace, and follow the disease in the region,” Dr Mannix said.

An informed source said that with the rise in Limerick cases they expected to see a potential increase in the number of relatively young adults requiring hospital treatment.

“You wouldn’t have seen these type of daily case numbers that are in Limerick since for a long time and even then it was rare to go over 100 cases a day,” said an informed source.

“There is always a fear of an increase in hospitalisations with this virus and we have seen that among parents of young children in Limerick in the past couple of weeks,” they added.

The prevalence of Covid-19 in Limerick is running at more than three times the national rate.

Eight people, believed to be in their 40s and 50s, were being treated at the Covid-19 respiratory ward at University Hospital Limerick.

Colette Cowan, chief executive, UL Hospitals Group, warned that while they were “making great progress with the vaccination programme, a significant proportion of the population does not have that protection”, and this leaves “people in all age groups at risk of becoming severely ill due to COVID-19”.

“A sustained high incidence in COVID-19 transmission across the Mid-West has the potential to cause severe disruption in our hospitals when they are attempting to recover from a devastating cyber attack that has already resulted in significant cancellations and delays for patients,” Ms Cowan added.

A joint statement released by members of a Mid-West Major Emergency Management Group urged people the region to enjoy the Bank Holiday Weekend safely and responsibly to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As well as the sharp rise in Limerick cases in Limerick, approximately 895 cases, in the two weeks leading up to June 2, there has been an increase of 48 cases in Clare, and 32 cases in North Tipperary.

Weekends and occasions with increased activity have led to significant increases in infection levels due to intensified social mixing and organised social gatherings, while the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks have been associated with indoor gatherings, house parties, household visits, family gatherings, and largely indoor activity.

The Group, including members of An Garda Siochana, local authorities, UL Hospital Group, reiterated that “indoor gatherings outside Public Health guidelines are considered high-risk and have had significant knock-on effects in the community, including in workplaces and schools”.

It also reminded the public that as Leaving Certificate exams commence next Wednesday, June 9, “we ask the public to be extra conscious of their activity, as students who become new confirmed cases or new close contacts will miss a number of scheduled exams”.

The free, self-referral walk-in and drive-through COVID-19 test centre, based at St Joseph’s health campus, will continue to operate until next Wednesday, June 9, from 11am to 7pm.

Dr Mannix, said she was “cognisant of the fact that many people will be looking forward to enjoying the long weekend, especially as the hospitality sector starts to reopen”, but she appealed for people to continue adhering to mask wearing, social distancing, and adhering to guidelines when meeting with friends and family.”

HSE Mid West Community Healthcare Chief Officer, Maria Bridgeman said COVID testing is continuing throughout the weekend, “with no appointment needed for those attending our sites in Limerick, Ennis and Nenagh”.

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, head of the Limerick Garda Division, said people “are allowed to meet up outdoors but it must be in line with public health guidelines”, but, he advised, “if you find yourself in a crowded outdoor area, leave that area and spread out somewhere else”.

Chief Roche said it was “not the sole responsibility of an Garda Siochana to control crowds and encourage people to follow the guidelines”, adding, “we are all responsible for our own actions”.

Meanwhile, Dr Pat Daly, chief executive, Limerick City and County Council, reminded the Limerick public: “Covid is still with us, and the recent spike in numbers in Limerick must act as a warning”.

He warned that the further opening of the local economy was dependent on people taking “personal responsibility” and “continuing to follow the health guidelines”.

“This re-opening is dependent on every one of us being careful and following the rules. We all have a choice to make. We have seen the impact the various lockdowns have had, and while we don’t want to return to these, it is our actions now which will determine if we do.”

Self-referral walk-in/drive-through COVID-19 test centres in Mid-West include:

* Ballysimon Road, Limerick City (Unit 6D Eastpoint Business Park, V94 KN73)

Self-referral from 8am to 4pm

* St Joseph’s Health Campus, Mulgrave Street (former St Joseph’s Hospital,

V94 N4C0) Self-referral from 11am to 6.15pm (June 3rd to June 9th)

* Nenagh (Former Castlebrand Factory, Tyone, E45 TY04)

Self-referral from 9am to 7.45pm

* Ennis (Block 1, Ballymalley Business Park, V95 Y981)

Self-referral from 12pm to 6pm