Dr Ronan Glynn, acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
The National Public Health Emergency Team are meeting today to discuss the possibility of specific Covid-19 measures for Offaly, Kildare and Laois.
This meeting follows a spike in Covid-19 cases in the three counties.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Thursday that there had been 226 cases of Covid-19 in the last 14 days in Laois, Offaly and Kildare, almost half of all cases in Ireland during that period.
Offaly accounted for 22 of the 69 new cases announced on Thursday evening, the most of any county in Ireland, with local lockdowns now being considered by NPHET.
They are due to provide further guidance and issue a statement on the approach for the three counties this evening. Contact tracing is continuing on new cases, including more than 60 across Laois, Offaly and Kildare, due to be announced on Friday evening. Most cases are associated with outbreaks at meat plants and direct provision centres, including close contacts of those workers. NPHET is worried that the high number could lead to a spike in community transmissions in the coming weeks.
Chairman of the NPHET Irish epidemiological modelling advisory group, Professor Philip Nolan. described the three counties on Thursday as a “very large reservoir” of disease, adding that there was, therefore, a "real risk" of community spread.
More than 60% of the most recent cases are close contacts of confirmed cases, but the mode of transmission is unknown or cannot be established in 20% of them. The new cases mean the R number, which shows how many people will become infected by one confirmed case, has risen to 1.8 having been below 1 last month. Professor Nolan described this rise as a "serious concern."
He revealed that the number of new cases per day had doubled in a week. Acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, later said people in Laois, Offaly and Kildare, in particular, need to "be careful." he refused to rule out a new lockdown in the Midlands region.
He said: "NPHET will continue to review this situation very closely and will provide more specific guidance on Friday. However, in the meantime, NPHET are now advising that everyone in Kildare, Laois and Offaly need to pay particular heed to any new symptoms that they may have, such as:
- shortness of breath
- loss of sense of taste or smell
"If you have any of these symptoms, you should self-isolate immediately and contact your GP about getting tested for COVID-19.
"If you are informed that you are a close contact of a case – please come forward and take up the offer of a test.
"In addition, people in Kildare, Laois and Offaly should now double down on the basic public health guidelines that are so important, including:
- always keeping a distance of 2 metres from other people
- do not go into crowded spaces
- wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
- wear a face covering where necessary
"While those aged 70 or over, or those who are medically vulnerable, should continue to exercise individual judgement, it is strongly recommended that if you are in one of those groups, and live in Kildare, Laois or Offaly, you should limit the number of people you meet to a very small network for short periods of time and remain physically distant.
"If you are exercising outdoors – maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from others and wash your hands as soon as you get home. Where at all possible, you should avoid public transport."
This advice will be updated today, Friday, August 7.