Covid warning as tens of thousands flock west

With tens of thousands of holidaymakers and racing fans flocking to the west from this weekend, the HSE has asked people to exercise caution, with local Covid-19 figures having trebled in the last week.

Local health experts are urging the public to protect themselves as Covid-19 case numbers soar in the west - the numbers have doubled in Mayo also - by following the public health advice.

Dr Breda Smyth, the HSE West's director of public health, said over the past five days there has been a "dramatic increase" in Covid-19 case numbers across the region.

She outlined that the positivity rate in the walk-in Covid-19 testing centre in Galway city is currently 8.7 per cent.

"Our age-specific 14 day incidence in our young adults ranges from 500 to 832 cases per 100,000. This population is largely unvaccinated."

She warned that the virus is circulating "at pace" among the region's population. "To protect ourselves and our loved ones, it is important we continue to practice public health behaviours: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, Avoid large gatherings, Stay outside and stay apart."

Tony Canavan, the CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group which runs the seven public hospitals in the west and north-west and who is also responsible for the rollout of the vaccination programme in the region, warned we are now on the "upward curve" of the fourth wave of Covid-19 infection in Ireland.

"We don't yet know how many people will get seriously ill and will require hospital care or treatment in an intensive care unit. A small percentage of all people with Covid-19 will require hospital care but as the number of cases in the community increases, this small percentage translates into a larger number of patients needing hospitalisation."

He added that even before the impact of the fourth wave of infection in hospitals is felt, there are already record numbers of people attending the emergency departments.

"Many of these need to be admitted to hospital for ongoing treatment. We are seeing a level of activity normally not seen until December and January."

Mr Canavan outlined that the increase in Covid-19 cases in the community is a great concern. "I would like to appeal to the public to stay vigilant and help halt the spread of the virus in the community by following public health advice in relation to wearing masks and keeping a social distance.

"I would also urge anyone aged 25 to 69 who hasn't yet registered to get a free Covid-19 vaccine, to do so. The vaccine is the most effective way to prevent serious disease and will help protect you and those close to you."

Breda Crehan Roche, the chief officer of Community Healthcare West, stressed that the Delta variant is highly infectious and is circulating in the community. "Now more than ever, with restrictions easing, we need to be extremely vigilant and not let our guard down in terms of public health measures.

"It is vital that we do so to protect our loved ones and vulnerable people including those not yet vaccinated. The vaccination programme is making great progress, we would urge anyone aged over 25 years of age who has not yet registered for their free Covid-19 vaccine to do so."


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