COVID-19 cases in Limerick jumped to 78 on Friday, a rise of 34 in 24 hours, according to figures released Saturday, as the potential for a local lockdown continued to loom on the Shannonside city.
Figures released today by the Department of Public Health Mid West showed that as well as the increase in cases in Limerick, there was also a rise in north Tipp, from 5 cases on Thursday to 11 on Friday.
Eleven cases were identified in Clare between Thursday and Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the region to 1,600 in the past 26 days, including 950 cases in the last two weeks.
It comes on the back of a public backlash to news on Friday that Limerick’s only vaccination centre, based at Limerick Racecourse in Patrickswell, would close Saturday, and on another four dates in June and July, to facilitate racing meetings at the racetrack.
The UL Hospitals Group, which operates the vaccination centre, said the rollout of vaccines would not be impacted by the temporary day closures.
It stated that in the first three days of opening on June 8th, a total of 4,645 vaccines had been delivered at the Limerick centre.
“Next week, due to the acceleration of vaccine administration locally, made possible by our relocation to Limerick Racecourse, there will be 24,000 vaccines delivered at the Racecourse centre, and approximately 14,000 between the centres at Ennis and Nenagh,” a spokesman said.
“The pausing of the programme at the Racecourse centre to accommodate a scheduled race meeting tomorrow (Saturday) and on four other days in June and July, will not delay the administration of vaccine because of the increased vaccination capacity at the Racecourse, which holds a maximum of 46 vaccination booths.”
The spokesman said the UL Hospital Group “have been aware of a number of instances in which SMS text message appointment confirmations have directed people to centres other than those closest to their homes, with similar incidents reported in other parts of the country over the past few days.”
“We have been working to identify and contact the people who have been affected in our tri-country catchment area in the Mid-West, to assist them with arranging appointments in their local centres.”
It urged anyone who has a query arising from vaccination appointment text messages to contact the national helpline number on 1850-241850.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health Mid-West urged people in Limerick to avail of two new self-referral pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics, as it continued to identify more cases on a daily basis.
Despite the high level of cases in Limerick, hospitals in the region have not been overwhelmed with Covid patients, as the majority of the older at risk population have received their Covid-19 jabs.
Health officials are continuing to manage “a high incidence of infection across the city and county” particularly in workplaces.
“We are encouraging members of the public to avail of self-referral walk-in clinics in Limerick this week. These include Eastpoint Business Park on Ballysimon Road, St Joseph’s Health Campus on Mulgrave Street in Limerick City, GAA Grounds in Kilmallock, and the Moyross Health Centre,” said a spokesman.
The Moyross walk-in centre will operate this Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 7pm.
Appointments can be also booked for between 8am and 4pm daily for the COVID test centre located at Eastpoint Business Park, Ballysimon Road, Limerick, as well as a walk-in service.
Tests can be booked through the online portal via the HSE website where one can book a test limited to the person applying.
People are reminded they require photo ID and a mobile phone number in order to be tested.
On Thursday, Dr Rose Fitzgerald, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, in Limerick, said the numbers attending self-referral clinics have “helped our team to chart the disease in the region, allowing us to step in and break multiple chains of transmission”.
“However, we are still concerned about the prevalence of infection, particularly in Limerick city, and we are urging the public to be extra conscious of adhering to Public Health guidelines when meeting others.”
“Wearing a mask and socially distancing has proven to significantly limit the spread of COVID-19,” Dr Fitzgerald added.
All Limerick cases are being sequenced for variants, including the so-called Indian variant, however “this is taking up to two weeks” an informed source said.
“This re-emphasises the need for people to self isolate once they are informed they have tested positive because you don’t want to be that person who might have this variant, because it is highly more transmissible than the UK variant.”
Limerick is still identifying “way too high” numbers at three times the national average, and needs to see a sustained period of low case numbers before social behaviours can be relaxed, they warned.
“People only need to look across the water and see what has happened in the UK.”
Despite British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent fanfare over the UK’s rapid vaccination programme rollout, concerns around the “Delta” variant could be about to delay the lifting of all restrictions earmarked for June 21.
Back home, and the decision by the government to allow pubs and restaurants serve customers outdoors from last Monday will only be known in the next week.
However, it is anticipated that numbers may rise in the Limerick region with outbreaks identified in local workplaces and schools.
Public Health Mid West was investigating 52 workplace incidents involving 152 cases with an estimated 320 close contacts.
It was investigating more than 15 outbreaks among schools and creches.
Household visits, parties, family gatherings, continue to be “a significant contributing factor in the widespread surge of COVID-19” it said.
Those at most risk now are the unvaccinated, particularly those congregating with others in indoor settings.
“While progress is being made in relation to last month’s cyber attack, our department remains very busy managing new COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces, schools, and communities, and while numbers appear to have lowered in some recent days, we can expect fluctuations, but the daily figures need to be significantly lower and kept at low levels for a sustained period of time,” said Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West.
A “small number” of Leaving Certificate students in the Limerick region will not be able to sit their exams, she added.