THE Mid-West Public Health Department has warned about the risks posed for the spread of Covid-19 as a result of social mixing among multiple households.
The warning was issued this week as it investigates more than 55 household situations, involving at least two cases each, across the Mid-West region since March 1.
These “situations” are in households where a more in-depth public health risk assessment has been undertaken because of either having a suspected or confirmed outbreak.
The department has provided an example of a complex community outbreak of more than 20 cases, occurring as a direct result of social mixing among multiple households, which occurred in the Mid-West region in recent months.
Each household was exposed to other settings, including workplaces and extended families, resulting in further spread of infection outside the household.
One household cluster was linked to a workplace outbreak of more than five cases, which then spread to the household of a staff member, resulting in a family outbreak.
The advice comes as the number of 14-day incidence of cases in Clare slumps to the six lowest in the country at 69.9%. This is in sharp contrast to Limerick where the incidence at 133% is the ninth highest in the country and Tipperary, which is the eleventh highest at 117%
According to figures produced by the National Disease Surveillance Centre, there were 260 cases recorded in Limerick, 83 in Clare and 187 in Tipperary from March 2 to March 15.
The Department of Public Health Mid-West, HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, and UL Hospitals’ Group are strongly urging people in Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to avoid any form of social gathering, as they continue to manage a high rate of multi-household outbreaks as a result of social mixing.
Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “Many will feel that a once-off social visit to a friend or family member might be harmless, but if small gatherings occur on a regional scale across a number of communities, this could be the start of another serious community outbreak.
“People in the Mid-West have shown great resolve in suppressing the virus after a challenging two months that resulted in significant levels of illness and death. We owe it to our most vulnerable to continue following the public health guidelines, so we can give them a chance to be vaccinated.”
HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Chief Officer, Maria Bridgeman said it is very important that households don’t mix.
“The efforts we have all made are making an impact as we see infection rates drop. Combined with the roll out of the vaccination programme it gives us reason to be hopeful, but it remains vital the public continue to play their part to save lives. Please keep a distance of two metres between you and anyone outside of your household; wash your hands regularly and wear a face mask to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
UL Hospitals’ Group CEO Colette Cowan stated it is important for the people to hold firm to the public health guidance that has helped to hold back the spread of Covid-19 in our communities over the past two months.
“We have to continue doing everything we can to prevent another Covid-19 surge of the kind that resulted in such significant illness, hospitalisations and death this January and February,” Ms Cowan said.