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high alert Holohan warns we 'can't let our guard down' as cases fall below 2,000 for two days in a row

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that "while are starting to make progress in reducing the level of the virus in the community", there is still a "huge volume of disease in the country".

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned: 'There is a huge volume of disease in the country.' Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned: 'There is a huge volume of disease in the country.' Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned: 'There is a huge volume of disease in the country.' Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

Levels of coronavirus in the community are falling, with 1,373 new cases confirmed yesterday.

It was the first time this year that new cases fell below 2,000 for two consecutive days, after 1,910 cases were reported on Saturday.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that "while are starting to make progress in reducing the level of the virus in the community", there is still a "huge volume of disease in the country".

58pc of yesterday's new cases were among those under the age of 45. The median age among those infected was 39.

There were 23 further deaths reported, with a median age of 84. The age range of those who died was between 61 and 99.

A total of 2,970 people have now died from the virus while there have been 187,554 confirmed cases, the National Public Health Emergency Team announced last night.

Women accounted for 730 of yesterday's new cases and 643 cases were among men.

Dublin recorded 379 cases, followed by Cork with 145, Wexford with 86, Galway with 85 and Limerick with 71. Another 612 cases were spread across the country.

There are now 218 patients with Covid-19 in ICUs and 1,931 people with the infection in hospitals across the State.

Over the weekend, 44 more patients with Covid-19 were admitted to hospital.

The 14-day incidence rate now stands at 840.7 per 100,000 of the population.

While the figures represent a decline in the numbers of new infections compared with recent numbers, Dr Holohan urged the public to hold firm.

He said now is a "critical time" to remain vigilant to stop further spread of the virus.

"While we are starting to make progress in reducing the level of the virus in the community, this is a critical time for all of us to hold firm to the public health advice.

"We must not let down our guard against this highly infectious disease and the risk it poses to ourselves and those most medically vulnerable to infection," he said.

"There is a huge volume of disease in the country and the recent surge in cases continues to place an unprecedented strain on ICUs, hospitals and other frontline healthcare services.

"The answer lies in driving down social contacts and congregation in all settings, including in workplaces," he said, adding anyone who can work from home must do so.

Meanwhile, as various groups call to have quicker access to vaccinations, Dr Siobhán O'Sullivan, chief bioethics officer for the Department of Health, said advancing age is the greatest risk factor for becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus and the roll-out of the vaccination programme must take that into account.

"Those who have an increased risk of dying or developing severe disease have been prioritised to receive a Covid vaccine.

Amplified

"Increasing age is the clearest risk factor associated with dying or becoming very ill if you contract the virus.

"This risk is amplified for older persons living in long term residential care as they have a higher risk of exposure to infection.

"In Ireland in the first wave of Covid-19, 56pc of deaths occurred in this setting.

"This is likely compounded by the presence of underlying conditions which increase with advancing age," she said.

Frontline healthcare workers have been prioritised in the first phase of the vaccine roll-out as they are also at high risk of exposure to the virus.

In the first wave, more than 30pc of cases of Covid-19 were in this group.


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