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Eye of storm Donegal braces for further surge in Covid cases as towns grapple with sky high infection rates

The forgotten county finds itself 'in the eye of the storm' as Covid cases rocket

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Donegal-based pharmacist Fergus Brennan has warned the race to get younger people vaccinated is off to a false start

Donegal-based pharmacist Fergus Brennan has warned the race to get younger people vaccinated is off to a false start

Donegal-based pharmacist Fergus Brennan has warned the race to get younger people vaccinated is off to a false start

Donegal is bracing itself for a further surge in Covid-19 cases as two towns in the county grapple with infection rates far higher than the national average.

Outdoor service in the Inishowen Peninsula was a washout on Sunday evening following thunderstorms.

The old adage "lightning never strikes twice" has once again been proven untrue as this isn't the first time Buncrana has had the highest rate of Covid in the country.

Billboards are encouraging people to wine and dine in the North, and doctors say some cases have been linked to cross-Border travel.

A local pharmacist has also warned that the race to get younger people vaccinated is off to a false start after he was forced to suspend online bookings due to a lack of supply.

The latest Covid data released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows that infection is highest in the 19 to 24 age group.

As of June 28, Buncrana had a 14-day incidence rate of 608.1 per 100,000.

Carndonagh, which is just 20 minutes away, had the third highest rate of infection at 489.3.

Fergus Brennan, CEO of Brennans Pharmacies, said the Buncrana branch has been hit with "an unprecedented demand for vaccines" by younger people.

The problem is, he currently only has five Janssen jabs in stock - and he has no idea when he will get the supply to meet the demand.

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Dr Denis McCauley expects the trends to continue

Dr Denis McCauley expects the trends to continue

Dr Denis McCauley expects the trends to continue

 

"Since June 21, we have been vaccinating people over-50.

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"Then the Health Minister announced on Friday that pharmacies would be vaccinating the younger cohort (18 to 34).

"We are delighted to help, but this announcement was made without having any pre-consultation with us," Mr Brennan said.

"This has caused a lot of untold stress as expectations are high.

"The uptake for the over-50s was significant for us and we only have a small number of vaccines left.

"We've an online booking system and to be fair on people, we had to temporarily close that on Friday evening as we had hundreds of names come in.

"We have no stock of the vaccine and no clarity on vaccine delivery, except what I've heard in the media.

"We can't give people any commitments at the moment.

"We now find ourselves in the eye of the storm."

Mr Brennan said the people of Buncrana have been doing "their very best" to look after each other by observing the rules carefully.

The town's close proximity to Derry, which has some of the North's highest Covid rates, may be a contributing factor.

"We've seen a steep spike in the last two to three weeks, and the last week in particular has been quite dramatic," said Dr Paul Grant, of Buncrana Medical Centre.

"Around one in five are coming back positive, and that alone is worrying."

Fortunately, Dr Grant said most are presenting with "very minor symptoms".

"They're almost hay fever-like. But this creates problems too as some people might not present for testing and continue to go to work.

"I've had a couple of cases where people said they had gathered outdoors or were outdoor dining, and anecdotally we're hearing that people are picking it up outdoors.

"There has been a lot of cross-Border activity too, but that's a natural thing in Buncrana."

Up until July 1, the seven-day incidence rate in Derry and Strabane was 298.8 cases per 100,000.

Despite the surge in cases, hospital admissions remain relatively low.

Dr Denis McCauley, of Millbrae surgery in Carndonagh, said increased positivity rates in the North are being reflected in Donegal, and this is likely to continue.

"Inishowen is part of the same economic and social area as Derry, the Border is irrelevant," he said.

"There's normal social mixing between the two, but this is being heightened by the fact there are conflicting restrictions on either side.

"The background issue is that the incidence in Northern Ireland has gone from half the rate of the Republic, to double the rate.

"If there's an outbreak in Derry, it will impact north Donegal.

"It's not just Carndonagh and Buncrana, it's Inishowen in general.

"The positivity rate at one of the walk-in testing centres is about 11.7pc."

Northern Ireland recorded its first Covid-related death in nearly a month after a 39-year-old woman passed away last week.

The Republic also recorded its highest number of cases in over a month on Friday.

The HSE's Director of Public Health for Donegal, Dr Anthony Breslin, confirmed the Delta variant has been detected in the county.

"The numbers are increasing unfortunately, particularly in parts of Inishowen and other Border areas of east Donegal."

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