A further 429 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Wednesday. This brings to 36,155 the total number of cases of the disease in the Republic.
Some 189 of the new cases are in Dublin, and 60 in Cork. There were also 31 cases in Donegal, 28 in Galway, 18 in Kildare, 15 in Wicklow, 15 in Clare, 12 in Limerick, nine in Meath, nine in Louth, seven in Cavan, seven in Longford, six in Laois, five in Offaly, five in Westmeath, with the remaining 14 cases in eight counties.
One further death was reported to NPHET, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,804.
The reproduction number, an indicator of how widely the disease is spreading, now stands at between 1.2 and 1.4, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET epidemiological modelling advisory group. A reproduction number of less than 1 means an epidemic is dying out; a figure greater than 1 signals it is spreading.
“While we are cautiously optimistic about Dublin, we have seen relatively high case numbers in the last few days, and it will be a number of days yet before the pattern is clear,” Prof Nolan told a briefing on Wednesday.
“Case numbers are clearly rising across the country. We need to remain vigilant, to ensure we do not lose the ground that we have gained across the capital city since we moved to Level 3, and to ensure we do not see further deterioration outside the capital.”
Of the new cases, 203 are men and 226 are women. Sixty-five per cent are under 45 years. Officials say 45 per cent are associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of cases, while 77 cases involved community transmission.
There are currently 130 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 15 admissions in the past 24 hours, according to acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.
“Recently we asked everyone to halve their social contacts,” he said. “Reducing the number of people that we meet – and engaging safely with a small core group – remains the cornerstone of our collective effort to reduce the spread of this virus and its impact on our health and the health of the people that we care about.”
He said that while school-age cases were stable, there had been a sharp rise in cases among 19-24 year-olds and the rise in cases among over-65s was of concern.
Older people were at “grave risk” of a spillover of cases among people of working age, he said.
Rejecting the “narrative” that the disease was less severe of dangerous than before, Prof Nolan said Covid-19 was “as fatal as it ever was to some sectors” while young people were vulnerable “in a different way”.
Public health officials gave examples of recent clusters that have occurred in the west.
One cluster of 30 cases arose after a young couple went away for a weekend and attended a house party. This resulted in six to eight cases, and cases in three to four households. On the second day of their trip, they went with friends to a town centre, resulting in four more cases.
They attended a bar, where six people at an adjacent table, and four staff, tested positive. They then went on to a “drinks venue”, where four more cases occurred.
In another cluster of 24 cases involving intergenerational social mixing, the outbreak started in a small rural place where middle-aged people had gathered. There was socialising in a pub and workplace and further transmission occurred in the pub over the weekend. Fourteen of the cases were directly linked to socialising and 11 involved people aged between 45 and 70. In the outbreak, there were three family clusters, three schools were affected and also one workplace.
A third example arose from two student parties on the same night. There was mixing between the parties, leading to 21 cases among those on attendance. One of these people then had dinner with a university friend, who later went to class. Later 15 out of 26 people in the class tested positive, giving 36 cases in total. The students were masked and observed social distancing, but public health officials believe transmission occurred during break-time.
So far, 87 cases have been detected in schools, out of 4,455 tests carried out, the briefing heard.