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Dublin remains one of the worst-hit counties despite lengthy Level 3 restrictions

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CMO Dr Tony Holohan

CMO Dr Tony Holohan

Colin Keegan

CMO Dr Tony Holohan

Dublin remains one of the worst-hit counties, despite being under semi-lockdown for weeks.

New figures show its incidence over the last two weeks - when restaurants and pubs were closed for indoor customers - was as high as 198.6 per 100,000, signalling that so-called soft lockdowns may no longer work.

There were 1,000 more cases of the virus confirmed nationally yesterday, and three more people passed away from the illness.

Among the new cases, 254 were in Dublin, 102 in Meath, 88 in Cork, 81 in Cavan, and 75 in Galway. The remaining 400 cases are spread across 20 counties.

The Covid-19 surge has now reached dangerous levels in 13 counties which have a worse rate than Dublin.

Cavan is in a particular state of crisis. The 14-day incidence of the virus is growing in huge swathes and worsened yesterday with Cavan spiralling to 735.1 per 100,000 - the worst in the country.

Meath, Monaghan, Donegal and Clare are serious hotspots for the virus as the decisions will be made this weekend on whether to put the country in virtual lockdown after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) warned the spread of the virus is out of control.

Other counties which are at the centre of the surge are Sligo, Cork, Galway, Leitrim, Westmeath, Limerick, Kildare and Wexford.

They all have 14-day incidences of the virus of over 200 per 100,000.

"Case numbers are continuing to rise," said Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, who led the Nphet team calling for a move to Level 5.

Pressure

"Right now, we need everyone to cut their social contacts to an absolute minimum. Every time you physically interact with another person, you are providing an opportunity for the virus to spread."

Hospitals are under growing pressure and, as of 2pm yesterday, 246 Covid-19 patients were on a ward, 30 of whom were seriously ill in intensive care.

The numbers of patients hospitalised had risen by 13 in the previous 24 hours.

Several hospitals are already using theatre space to cope with the influx, leaving patients who were on waiting lists for surgery on hold.

Meanwhile, doctors warned yesterday that Covid-19 is no longer under control and if it continues to spread unabated, it will be "a catastrophe" for our health system, causing untold suffering to patients with other illnesses.

Dr Ina Kelly, a HSE public health specialist in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said: "We have an extremely short window to avoid our health system becoming overwhelmed."

The IMO, representing over 5,000 doctors across all specialties, called on the public to comply fully with Covid-19 restrictions, saying that another shutdown of our non-Covid healthcare services this year would be a "catastrophe".