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The counties with the highest rates of Covid as new variants make up seven in 10 cases

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Eilish O'Regan

Limerick, Clare, Kildare, Laois, Carlow, Wicklow and Kerry have the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the country.

The rate is lowest in Cavan, Longford, Roscommon, Meath and Monaghan.

The news comes as Covid-19 outbreaks in hospitals and residential institutions rose last week as the more infectious variants of concern gained more ground, making up seven in 10 cases of the virus.

New figures show there were 25 outbreaks in hospitals last week, up from 15 the previous week.

Outbreaks in residential institutions rose to 35, an increase of 20. However, outbreaks in nursing homes fell from 12 to 11.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital rose to 685 yesterday, but there was a fall in numbers in intensive care to 20.

The positivity rate for people having PCR tests rose to 32.2pc over the past seven days.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said that as of Tuesday the 14-day incidence rate of confirmed cases was 393.9 per 100,000.

It said that to date there is no indication of an increase in intensive care admissions associated with the current upsurge.

The number of patients in intensive care with Covid-19 increased slightly from a low for 2022 of 18 patients on May 29, but has been stable with between 20 and 28 patients a day since June 6.

There is also no indicator of increased deaths, although there can be a time-lag in the reporting.

The current increased circulation of the virus is due to the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sublineages, which are replacing the previously dominant Omicron variant BA.2.

“Similar increasing trends are being seen in several other countries across Europe as BA.4 and BA.5 become the dominant variants in circulation,” the HPSC said.

“This is likely due to their ability to evade immune protection caused by previous infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this immunity has waned over time.

“There is currently no indication of any change in infection severity compared with previous Omicron lineages.

“In addition, currently licensed vaccines confer high levels of protection against severe disease outcomes for all variants, including Omicron with a booster dose.

“However, as in previous waves, if case numbers in- crease substantially, some level of increased hospital and intensive care admissions is likely to follow.”

Covid-19 vaccines reduced the potential global death toll during the pandemic by more than half in the year following their implementation, according to a mathematical modelling study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

It was carried out by Imperial College London.

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