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Communions and Confirmations causing spike in cases, doc warns

Donegal's headed to Level 3 but Dublin's still Covid capital

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People wearing face masks pass a closed down shop on Henry Street

People wearing face masks pass a closed down shop on Henry Street

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

People wearing face masks pass a closed down shop on Henry Street

Dublin continued to record the highest number of new Covid-19 cases in the country yesterday as Donegal joined the capital in Level 3.

Another 324 cases were reported nationally.

Dublin accounted for the highest number, with 167 cases.

There were 42 new infections in Donegal, 34 in Cork, 13 in Monaghan, 12 in Kildare, eight in Cavan, six in Limerick, six in Meath, six in Roscommon and five in Wicklow, with the remaining 25 in 11 counties.

More than half of the new cases were linked to outbreaks, but 81 were due to community transmission.

A Level 3 clampdown is in effect in Donegal for the next three weeks from midnight.

Due to climbing numbers of virus cases, the Government had been left with "no choice other than to act, and act decisively," the Taoiseach said.

He also warned more counties could face restrictions unless people heeded public health advice and reduced contact with others.

A surge in cases has been linked to communion and confirmation parties, a health expert warned.

Dr Anthony Breslin, director of public medicine HSE North West, said cases have been linked to these events as well as people travelling back and forth across the Border.

"When we have contacted people, they have had events, christenings, communions, confirmations and unfortunately funerals.

"They have had one or two more people at these events than would be necessary and that makes managing and keeping up with social distancing and face covering more difficult, especially when there are young kids around."

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: "Public health doctors are coming across more cases arising from people who are close contacts of confirmed cases and are not restricting the movements.

"Remember that Covid-19 is highly contagious and you can be infectious without symptoms.

"If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, please follow the guidelines and restrict your movements for 14 days - do not go to school or work, do not have visitors to your home, do not go to the shop or pharmacy unless it is absolutely necessary.

"Please avail of a test when it is offered.

"Last week one in 10 close contacts who had a test were found to be positive - many of them had no symptoms."

Winter

The hidden cost of Covid-19 in delayed healthcare for cancer patients and hundreds of thousands of people on public waiting lists was revealed in the HSE's €600m winter plan yesterday.

Cancer centres are "struggling" to deliver pre-Covid level care and there are backlogs in symptomatic breast cancer and prostate cancer services.

Hospital waiting lists, which have more than 800,000 public patients needing surgery, scopes or a specialist appointment, are worsening and the outsourcing of patients to private hospitals will have little impact on the delays.

The winter plan highlights the challenges posed by the escalating pressure on hospitals as more people fall seriously ill with the virus, the constraints on delivering care with strict infection control rules and the risks faced by patients with other illnesses.

The HSE plan promises to hire 12,500 staff, including public health doctors and contact tracers needed to investigate Covid-19 cases.

It also said an extra 251 acute hospital beds will be opened this year and a further 232 in 2021. A further 17 critical care beds to add to the existing 282 will also be opened.

€200m will be spent before the end of the year and €400m in 2021.

The plan, however, warns a key underlying risk is "not being able to attract and retain the appropriate number and calibre of staff in the event that a significant number of key posts cannot be offered on a permanent basis".

Other key elements of the plan include:

Keeping people out of hospital as much as possible with a range of community supports including nearly five million more home care hours;

Around 20 hubs staffed by doctors and nurses will be located around the country where GPs can refer patients for respiratory care;

GPs will have increased access to diagnostics for patients in another bid to reduce emergency attendances, including by many over-75s;

There will be availability at 10 more hospitals to non-invasive endoscopy procedures;

The target is to reduce trolley numbers by 30pc and have no more than 450 patients in hospital who no longer need medical care but step down facilities instead;

Private hospitals are expected to agree to provide surge capacity when overcrowding levels are too high.

Launching the plan, HSE chief Paul Reid said he expected all health staff to get the flu vaccine.