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UK COVID-19 variant slowing suppression of Irish third wave


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UK COVID-19 variant slowing suppression of Irish third wave



FILE PHOTO: A boy plays with his dog on Sandymount strand, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dublin, Ireland February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne


DUBLIN (Reuters) - The near dominance in Ireland of the more infectious COVID-19 variant discovered in Britain has slowed the suppression of a third wave of the disease and may be leading to a plateauing of hospital admissions, health officials said on Thursday.


Ireland has been back in lockdown for almost two months after a wide reopening of the economy in December led to its most deadly COVID-19 surge to date, just as the variant known as B117 identified in Britain started to become more prevalent.


Nine out of every ten transmissions are now attributable to the variant, cutting the daily fall in case from 7-10% last month to just 0.2 to 0.4% this week and prompting the government to warn that any reopening of the economy will be very gradual.


"We continue to make progress but the rate at which the number of cases a day is decreasing has slowed down and that is almost certainly due to the B117 variant," Ireland's COVID-19 modelling chief, Philip Nolan, told a news conference.


"We are maintaining suppression but it's precarious and we've a fundamental concern that disease levels are still very high."


Nolan said that while the total number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has more than halved over the past month, new admissions seems to be plateauing at 50 per day. Test positivity has also been stuck at around 6% for ten days, he added.


As a result, Nolan's team expects the number of daily cases to drop to 400 to 500 by the end of the month versus a forecast of 200 to 400 just a week ago. Infections could drop further to 200 to 350 by mid-March if progress continues.


Ireland's five-day moving average stands at 780, equivalent to a 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population of 252.


Ministers said this week that they hope to allow some students to return to school from early March.


"Beyond that, unfortunately we need to wait a period of time and assess the impact of any easing in those sectors," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said.


(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Nick Macfie)



-- © Copyright Reuters 2021-02-19
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