‘We’re getting too close,’ says Prof Nolan as worst hit areas nationally for Covid revealed

THOSE who are fully vaccinated may be feeling “inappropriately bulletproof’ and people are “getting too close” according to Nphet’s Professor Philip Nolan.

e warned that if levels of infection are allowed to build up to high levels we will be in “real trouble”.

He said that the easy transmission of the virus has been forgotten.

“I can see as I go around myself we’re simply getting too close. We’ve forgotten how easy it is to transmit this virus,” Prof Nolan said.

“Those who are vaccinated may be feeling inappropriately bulletproof, we have very high levels of protection but were not absolutely protected.

“To those who are awaiting vaccination the message is get your vaccine when you’re offered, and wait for it to be fully effective…

“And the rest of us who are fortunate enough to be vaccinated need to support those who are awaiting vaccination.”

His remarks come amid the release of the latest Covid figures for Local Electoral Areas in the country.

The average National 14 Day Incidence Rate for the country is 246 cases per 100,000 people.

The worst hit areas over the past fortnight are in Donegal and Louth, with other hotspots in Dublin and Galway.

The highest levels of Covid-19 in the country are in Carndonagh, Co Donegal, where 335 cases were confirmed in the past two weeks, which is 1,974.8 per 100,000, or almost 8 times the national average.

Other areas of Donegal with a high prevalence of the virus are Buncrana with 1,239 cases per 100,000, Donegal with 608 cases per 100,000, and Lifford-Stranorlar with 529 cases per 100,000.

In Louth, cases are 2-3 times the national average. Dundalk South has reported 573 cases per 100,000, Ardee has reported 774 cases per 100,000, and Dundalk-Carlingford has confirmed 551 cases per 100,000.

While the majority of Galway remains below 200 cases per 100,000, areas around Galway city are experiencing high case levels. Galway City Centre is a Covid hotspot, with 170 cases confirmed, or 638 per 100,000. This is more than twice the level of the national average.

In Dublin, most areas remain above average, but Ongar in particular has 578 cases per 100,000, also over double the national average.

In Cork, cases are generally below 100 per 100,000, although case levels in the city centre and west Cork are slightly higher, nearer to 200 cases per 100,000. Cork City Centre has confirmed 98 cases, which is just above the national average at 253 per 100,00.

Lismore, in County Waterford is the only area that has reported less than 5 cases of the virus amongst its population of almost 11,000 in the past two weeks.

Other areas with low case levels are Kanturk in Cork with 56 cases per 100,000, Tralee in Kerry with 55 cases per 100,000, Roscrea-Templemore in Tipperary with 54 cases per 100,000, Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary with 51 cases per 100,000, and Muinebeag in Carlow with 45 cases per 100,000.

You can view your local Covid figures at: https://covid19ireland-geohive.hub.arcgis.com/

Prof Nolan also said that herd immunity is “not terribly useful” and there is no “magic number” of population vaccination that will allow life to return to normal immediately.

“I honestly don’t think there’s a magic figure that we can reach where when we reach that level of vaccine penetration everything can return completely to normal. We’re going to have to be careful around this virus for some time,” he said.

“There’s not a binary point where up to that point, you have to have this level of non-pharmaceutical intervention, and after that point you have none. What we’re looking at here is a graded reduction in other restrictions as vaccines offer more and more protections,” he added.

The chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group also said that the concept of herd immunity “is not terribly useful right now”, as it is an “abstract concept” that assumes every person in the population is the same. He highlighted that the virus spreads at different rates among adults, teenagers, and children.

“It’s not useful to think about it as a percentage, we need to think for each of those three cohorts what are we protecting them from and then what are we protecting everybody from, because as we know vaccination is about reducing risk to yourself and to others,” he said.

He warned that although we can’t always focus on the dangers and grimmer possibilities of the pandemic, Delta is a very significant challenge.

“We have seen a four-fold increase in cases, we’ve seen numbers in hospital double. How big a wave of Delta we’re going to get over the next couple of weeks really depends on what we do over the coming weeks,” he said.

He said that vaccination offers very high levels of protection, with the risk of spreading the disease or acquiring a symptomatic infection only 30pc of what it used to be, and the risk of developing a severe disease only 10-15pc of the risk before the vaccine roll-out.

Prof Nolan said that although vaccination allows us to tolerate a higher level of infection in the community, there is still a need to protect those vulnerable people who are still making up hospital cases.

“Even if numbers are low, I don’t want to trivialise them. There’s still almost 100 people in hospital, and 20 people in ICU, who are struggling with this disease, and I’m really concerned to protect them,” he said.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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