covid latest Lockdown pays off as spread of Covid-19 falls despite rise in infection among older people
THE national lockdown sacrifice is paying off as the spread of the Covid-19 virus is falling for the first time in weeks.
But behind the good news is a rise in infection among older people and a growing death toll this month.
And there are fears people will follow Dublin's experience and squander the "fragile" new positive momentum by reverting to old habits with five more weeks of Level 5 restrictions yet to come.
The mixed picture was revealed by Nphet yesterday as it emerged the number of new cases of the virus a day is reducing.
"This is the first time in weeks we have been able to report positive indicators of the disease," said Professor Philip Nolan, chair of Nphet's Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.
Last week the seven-day average was nearly 1,200 cases a day and that is now down to 836.
The 14-day incidence is falling more slowly but it has also been cut and now stands at 287 per 100,000, down from 310 per 100,000.
There were 772 new cases of the virus reported yesterday and six further deaths.
The spread has been slowing in the 19-24 age group, but is rising in the over-65s.
The forecast is that there will be 100 deaths from the virus this month, compared to 36 in September and five in August.
Level 5 restrictions will not show an impact for another week to 10 days and officials suggest the downturn in cases could be partly due to people changing behaviour and anticipating the tougher measures.
The average number of contacts a person who tests positive has had has now reduced to two.
"The overall situation has improved but we have to remember that these are very early days. This improvement will only be maintained if we keep going in our efforts," said chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.
He warned the incidence is rising in older age groups who are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
"The way in which we can protect them is if we continue to drive down transmission across the whole population," he said.
The fear is that people will become less vigilant and there will be a national mirror of what happened in Dublin when Level 3 restrictions were imposed in September.
This led to an initial fall and stabilisation, only for the spread to increase again.
Dr Holohan dampened down speculation on what will reopen in early December if the fall in the number of daily cases dips to 100 a day.
The R number, which indicates how many people an person with the virus will infection, has also gone down to 1.0 nationally.
HSE clinical director Dr Colm Henry said there are 325 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 42 in intensive care. Overall, the hospital situation was stable.
He again appealed to people who need emergency care for non-Covid illnesses to attend hospital A&E departments, which are safe.
When it comes to nursing homes, various efforts including serial testing have meant outbreaks can be detected earlier but the biggest threat to residents is the level of community transmission of the virus.
Among the new cases yesterday, 228 were in Dublin, 120 in Cork, 50 in Meath, 41 in Donegal and 41 in Galway. The remaining 292 cases were spread across all remaining counties.
Cavan, Meath and Westmeath are the worst hit, while Leitrim, Tipperary and Wicklow have the lowest fourteen day incidence of the virus.
Asked about the row over the closure of some clothes shops, Dr Holohan said if you are going to prioritise areas like education, healthcare and the protection of older people it is necessary that other activities have to be reduced.
Meanwhile, asked about the number of people flying home for Christmas from the US, a spokeswoman for Aer Lingus told the Herald that "there has not been a significant uplift in bookings from the US for Christmas".
She said Aer Lingus is calling upon the Government to work with US authorities to establish a safe travel corridor between Ireland and the US based upon a pre-departure testing regime which would allow for a safe return to international travel.
"Aer Lingus wants to enable people to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones," she added.