A NORTH Clare family doctor is encouraging people to wear face masks in public places as four electoral divisions have recorded a 14-day incidence rate higher than the national average.
Dr Michael Kelleher made the plea this week after official figures revealed there were 469 cases of Covid-19 in the Ennis Local Electoral Area (LEA) from March 1 to March 14.
This translates into a 14-day incidence rate of 1,517, which is much higher than the national average of 1,188.
The incidence of the virus was also high in the Shannon LEA where 445 cases were recorded during the same period, giving an incidence rate of 1,464 per 100,000.
There were 265 case the Kilrush LEA where the incidence rate was 1,262.
The Ennistymon LEA recorded 248 cases, which translates into an incidence rate of 1,511.
Killaloe was the only LEA to record an incidence rate of 994 below the national average after the detection of 200 cases.
Dr Kelleher said masks do limit the spread of airborne infection for people.
“The numbers are so high, it will make some difference. I don’t know will it be able to flatten any curve.
“The rise in Covid-19 cases is a concern. The vaccination programme has had a hugely positive impact on individuals who are not getting as sick and less people are dying from it compared to their earlier wave.
“However, when the numbers escalate hugely, a small percentage is still a very big number. Frail and vulnerable people can succumb to the latest variant. It is putting considerable pressure on the hospital sector.”
Asked if more public health restrictions should be introduced, Dr Kelleher said any new measures would be unlikely to stop the current surge as it is so well established.
“There are thousands of cases daily. All cases are not being picked up for a variety of reasons. Some people have no symptoms and don’t know they are carrying the virus. Others are trusting that they don’t to have a test.
“The PCR testing has been limited to medically at risk or vulnerable groups. We are relying a lot more on antigen tests and people self-isolating if they have the virus.”
The number of Covid-19 patients at the region’s main hospital has jumped by almost a quarter in the space of a week.
The latest HSE figures show there are now 105 patients, who tested positive for the virus at University Hospital Limerick on Tuesday up from 86 on the same day last week.
The numbers in intensive care or the high dependency unit being treated for the virus has remained relatively stable, however, with five in the ICU, which is a reduction of one on last week’s figure.
Daily case numbers remain above 10,000 across the country, but Health Minister Stephen Donnelly admits the figures are likely higher, with hundreds of thousands of people getting Covid-19 every week.