big numbers | 

Latest Covid variants much more infectious – with almost 24,000 cases confirmed last week

Covid-19 test. Stock image

Eilish O'Regan

Nearly 24,000 people in Ireland are known to have had Covid-19 last week, although the true figure is unclear and likely to be much higher.

A total of 10,435 had a positive PCR test, now confined to limited at-risk groups, and 13,059 registered as positive with the HSE after a home antigen test.

The real extent of infection remains unknown, but scientists believe the BA.4 and BA.5 variants circulating have a growth advantage of around 35pc higher than previous forms of Omicron, making it much more infectious.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital reached 697 yesterday and looks set to pass the 700 mark, although there are hopes the summer wave may have peaked or is about to peak.

Of those in hospital, 21 were in intensive care with Covid-19, with figures for that category remaining steady throughout this wave.

The west Kerry Gaeltacht Corca Dhuibhne, Newport in Tipperary and Cappaghmore in Limerick were the local electoral areas with the highest incidence of Covid-19 over 14 days recorded by the country’s disease watchdog in its latest report.

The report, which refers to the end of May, when the new Covid-19 variants were on the rise, shows cases per 100,000 over 14 days in remote west Kerry numbered 345.5.

This was followed by Newport in Tipperary, Limerick city, Tralee, Waterford city, Tullamore and Listowel in Kerry.

Other electoral areas in the top 10 at that stage were Ennis and Carlow.

There is concern about the uptake of Covid-19 booster vaccines amid evidence that many vulnerable people are not availing of the offer of a second shot.

Meanwhile, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said it had now been notified of 28 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Ireland.

It said these cases were not unexpected following the presence of monkeypox cases in the UK and many European countries.

For each case, public health staff follow up those who had close contact with the person while they were infectious.

Public health risk assessments have been carried out, and those who were in contact with the cases are being advised on what to do in the event they become ill.

The cases in Ireland come after the reporting of more than 2,700 other confirmed cases of monkeypox in Europe, North America and many other countries over recent weeks.

Many countries have reported that the cases are predominantly, but not exclusively, in men who self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.

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