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Covid cases drop off as first shipment of Pfizer’s antiviral drug treatment reaches Irish shores

Around 5,000 doses of Paxlovid, which can reduce the risk of hospitalisation and severe disease if given early in infection, are here. Photo: Depositphotos

Eilish O'Regan

Covid-19 cases are falling but the level of infection still remains high as the Easter holiday weekend and the prospect of more socialising approaches, it emerged yesterday,

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said last week there was a 34.9pc fall in positive PCR tests.

The highest percentage cases was in the 35-44 year age group – accounting for one in five infections.

The highest incidence by age was seen in those aged over 85.

The highest percentage of people by age group hospitalised with Covid-19 were over the age of 85, accounting for a quarter of people who had to be admitted.

Among those who are reporting testing positive with home antigen tests, the mean age is 37 to 38 years.

Another 5,883 new infections were reported yesterday, which is a 10pc drop in a week.

There were 1,182 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of whom 58 are in intensive care.

It comes as a new Covid-19 advisory group to replace he National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was announced yesterday. It will be chaired by outgoing chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who is leaving in two months for a post of professor in Trinity College.

It will have much less power than Nphet and be predominantly monitoring and advising on the Covid-19 situation.

Meanwhile, Pfizer confirmed that the first shipment of its oral antiviral treatment for Covid-19 has arrived in Ireland.

Around 5,000 doses of Paxlovid, which can reduce the risk of hospitalisation and severe disease if given early in infection, are here.

Pfizer’s drug is part of a class known as protease inhibitors.

It is designed to block an enzyme the coronavirus needs in order to multiply and can cut the risk of being admitted to hospital and dying.

It should be given as soon as possible after catching Covid, ideally within three to five days.

Meanwhile, the Marie Keating Foundation said that uptake of the Bowel- Screen at home FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kits rose by almost 10pc in 2021 from January to September, with over 51.5pc of those invited to complete a FIT test returning testable samples.

However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions, those eligible for BowelScreen are now looking at an additional one-year wait for screening, meaning the interval to be sent a FIT kit has increased from every two years to every three.

The foundation is asking the public to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of bowel cancer, to speak to their GP if they notice a change in their bathroom habits, and take up their FIT test from BowelScreen when it arrives.

Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, is the second largest contributor to cancer death in Ireland, accounting for 12pc of cancer deaths in men, and 10pc in women according to the most recent figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI).

However, when caught early bowel cancer is very treatable and five-year survival rates currently stand at over 65pc.

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