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'hopeful figures' R number falls below one as demand for testing drops by 40pc, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says

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Health minister Stephen Donnelly (Niall Carson/PA)

Health minister Stephen Donnelly (Niall Carson/PA)

Health minister Stephen Donnelly (Niall Carson/PA)

Demand for Covid-19 testing has fallen by 40pc in the past week amid signs the spread of the virus is reducing, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Oireachtas health committee today.

He said there are positive signs in recent days that the virus is being brought under more control.

Our 14-day incidence rate is 228 cases per 100,000. This compares with 278 in the previous 14-day period, the Minister said.

The rate is falling in 23 of the 26 counties.

As of this morning, the R number – which indicates how many has been calculated at 0.7 and 0.9. Last week is was 1.

The average number of close contacts has fallen from 6 around 3.

The testing positivity rate has fallen to 4.7pc.

He told the committee that :”By moving early and comprehensively, Ireland is currently bucking the trend being seen in many other parts of Europe. The 14-day rate in France for example is 830. In Spain it is 567. With our neighbours, the UK, it is 469.

“While our figures are hopeful, the number of positive cases remain a serious concern. We have seen almost 11,000 cases reported in the past 14 days. We must continue to actively suppress this virus to the greatest extent possible.

“Part of this response comes from our testing and tracing system. Ireland’s testing rates are highest by international standards. And we continue to run serial testing in nursing homes and food production facilities.

“As the committee will be aware the HSE initially put in place capacity to meet Nphet’s advice for up to 100,000 tests per week. I met with the HSE some time ago to request additional capacity. “

He said to that end capacity was recently increased to up to 120,000 tests per week. I’m delighted to be able to share with the committee that as of this week the HSE can now do up to 140,000 a week.

“They deserve great credit for this. In parallel, demand for testing is down by at least 40pc in the past week. At the same time the HSE continues to recruit contact tracers and community swabbers.

“However, testing and tracing alone will not suppress this pandemic. To protect our health services, ensure education and childcare continue, protect jobs and move the country to lower levels of the framework, we must continue to work together.

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"I want to recognise the work of the members of this committee on all sides in the fight against this pandemic. Thank you for everything you have done in the past eight months to support the country during this difficult time. I know you will continue in this work in the months to come,” he added..

He was invited to give an update on the implementation of the Resilience and Recovery Plan for Living with COVID-19 and the timeframe for delivery of Budget 2021 measures.

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