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‘Covid has not gone away’

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HARSH REALITY Breda Smyth of HSE West has warned additional freedoms are giving rise to more transmission of Covid-19.

Public health expert discusses high case numbers in Mayo

Edwin McGreal

The easing of restrictions, the high virulence of the Delta variant and general complacency are all factors for why the numbers of Covid-19 cases in Mayo are remaining high.
That’s according to Professor Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health with HSE West.
HSE West covers Mayo, Galway and Roscommon and the daily Covid-19 positive cases in the region are remaining ‘between 100 and 120’, Professor Smyth said.
“The numbers are stablising rather than a continued decrease,” she told The Mayo News.
“We must remember we have mobilised considerably in the last two to three months and with increased congregation, you will get increased transmission.
“Because we have additional freedoms, it is giving rise to more transmission.
“We’re probably becoming a little less compliant with social distancing, mask wearing and hand-washing. These are all factors that protect and prevent transmission so if we are reducing those, it gives rise to increased transmission.
“We know from the past that there are transmissions in settings where you have close congregation, celebrations, all of these areas where people drop their guard and are in close proximity to each other.
“Covid has not gone away. We’ve definitely managed to control it to a certain extent. The weather has gotten colder and more people are inside so this is also going to give rise to more levels of transmission so it is really important to keep ventilation where there are a number of people in an indoor setting and that people wear their masks,” she added.
Professor Smyth said the Delta variant has had a ‘significant impact’ on increased numbers.
“The original Wuhan variant had a reproduction rate of 2.4 to 2.6. The first wave in Europe had a rate of three; the Alpha variant was between four to five and the Delta is between five and eight. So one person with the Delta can infect up to eight people which is quite a dramatic difference,” she said.
Professor Smyth urged people who have not been vaccinated to get the vaccine.
“We have a very good vaccination rate. I would urge the remaining people who can get the vaccine but have not got the vaccine to date, it really protects you and the entire population.
“Even when we had high infection rates in the fourth wave, we had, at one stage, the lowest mortality rate in Europe. The vaccine is very effective against a severe illness and mortality. That’s why it is really important people get the vaccine, it will protect you from severe illness and death.
“The majority of people in ICUs are unvaccinated. There are a number of vaccinated people there but the majority of these would have underlying vulnerabilities. There is a clear link between not being vaccinated and severity of disease,” she said.