Public health officials in the north-east have urged people to continue to follow public health guidelines due to a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases across Louth.
The appeal comes from the Department of Public Health North East’s Director Dr Augustine Pereira, who says that cases of Covid-19 in the area are increasing exponentially.
“We have seen a rapid increase in the last few weeks, certainly in all of the North East, but specifically in Louth as well,” said Dr Pereira, speaking to the Democrat.
Between the 4th of July and the 10th of July, there were 371 cases of Covid-19 reported in the North East.
Currently, Public Health North East only have figures for the first four days of last week, but that 400 cases were reported in those four days in the North East.
Dr Pereira says that he believes that there would be approximately 700 cases reported between the 11th and the 17th.
“We’re really seeing exponential increase now,” said Dr Pereira, with half of Covid-19 cases reported across the North East being in Louth during those first four days.
For the Louth figures, almost half of them are in the 15-24 age cohort.
When asked whether or not the Department of Public Health would consider introducing a walk-in test centre, Dr Pereira said that they are but that it may not solve issues due to cases being widespread in the county and not in one area.
“We are certainly looking at introducing a walk-in test centre, as soon as we practically can.”
“The problem is that it’s all over so a walk-in centre in itself will not address the issue because it’s all over and specifically in that [15-24] age group.”
Dr Pereira also says that it’s unlikely that Louth has seen the peak of Covid-19 cases yet.
“Looking at the rates of increase in the last few weeks, I think we could certainly be seeing very high rates in the North East in the coming weeks. It’s on the upward trend at the moment, we haven’t reached the peak yet,” said Dr Pereria.
There have been increases in cases in Ardee, Dundalk South, Dundalk-Carlingford and Drogheda Rural electoral areas.
Dundalk Carlingford has the highest 14-day incidence rate in Louth, with 269.5 cases per 100,000 population. Dundalk South is close behind with 265.1 cases per 100,000 population.
Ardee has a 14 day-incidence rate of 244.9 cases per 100,000 population. The most recent national incidence rate is 168.6 per 100,000 population, recorded on the 15th of July.
According to the Department of Public Health North East, the increase in cases is down to an increase in socialisation, with events like indoor and outdoor gatherings, sporting events, summer camps, family celebrations and house parties.
While there are some cases arising from workplaces, according to Dr Pereira this is not the primary transmission area.
“The high incidence rates we are seeing in Louth reflects how serious the situation can become in a matter of days and weeks. We have not seen this level of infection since early February, which is a worrying trend and shows that this virus is prevalent in our communities,” said Dr Pereira.
“Once the Delta variant gets into a community, it spreads much easier than we have seen previously and there is a greater chance of outbreaks.”
According to Dr Pereira, the majority of cases across Louth are coming from those who are unvaccinated.
Dr Pereira says it’s understandable that there has been an increase in the 15-24 age cohort, with many having been unable to socialise due to Covid-19 restrictions, but he says that people need to be cautious.
“We are appealing to teenagers and those in their twenties and thirties in particular to reduce their social contacts and to avoid attending house parties. The 15-24 year age group accounted for almost 50% of cases in Louth last week.”
Dr Pereira also highlighted the new symptoms of the Delta variant, which includes symptoms like a sore throat, runny nose or headaches. These are alongside more traditional Covid-19 symptoms like a new cough or a fever.
He added that anyone with mild symptoms should get a Covid-19 test at a local test centre, like Ardee.
“Thanks to vaccines, we are close to the end of the worst impact of the pandemic, therefore we ask if you are not yet vaccinated, to please continue to manage your contacts, meet outdoors, avoid crowded settings and not to socialise indoors as you await your vaccine,” said Dr Pereira.
Dr Pereira also encouraged people to register for their Covid-19 vaccine, with the HSE’s vaccine portal now open for anyone over 18 to receive a vaccine. People can also register with some participating pharmacies for a Janssen vaccine.
Local TD and Louth GAA Chairperson, Peter Fitzpatrick, urged everyone to work together to beat the latest wave of Covid-19 in Louth.
“As a community the people of Louth must work together to ensure that this virus does not take hold and shut down society. We have been through so much over the past 15 months and now is the time to come together and work as a team to beat this latest spike in numbers,” said Deputy Fitzpatrick.
Chief Executive of Louth County Council, Joan Martin, appealed to young, unvaccinated people to keep adhering to the public health advice.
“We know it’s hard, but it is helping to keep our communities safe. The people of Louth have shown on numerous occasions how a county with high incidence rates of COVID-19 can bring infection numbers to single-figure digits when communities band together by adhering to public health advice,” said Mrs Martin.
“Close collaboration between Public Health North East and Louth County Council will continue and be strengthened in the coming days and weeks to address the concerning trend in case numbers in Louth.”
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