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Watchdog to scale down Covid data updates despite risk of cases rising

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Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5 have been designated variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control. Photo: Stock image

Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5 have been designated variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control. Photo: Stock image

Omicron offshoots BA.4 and BA.5 have been designated variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control. Photo: Stock image

The frequency of Covid-19 reports is being scaled down from today, despite the risk of another rise in cases in the weeks and months ahead.

The watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), said in light of the current stage of the pandemic here and emerging priorities in other areas of disease, it is cutting back on the frequency at which it issues data.

It comes as the European Centre for Disease Control has designated the Omicron offshoots, BA.4 and BA.5 – which are gaining dominance in Portugal – variants of concern amid warnings they will lead to a rise of cases in Europe. This could lead to an increase in hospitalisations and intensive care admissions.

BA.4 and BA.5, which risk triggering another Covid-19 rise in Europe, have been detected in more than a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Around 700 cases of BA.4 have been detected in at least 16 countries and more than 300 cases of BA.5 have been found in at least 17 countries.

The WHO’s technical lead on Covid, Maria Van Kerkhove, last week said that while the two sublineages do not cause more severe illness, they appear to be easier to catch.

“We don’t know how this variant will behave, how these subvariants will behave in other countries that had a dominant wave of BA.2,” she said.

BA.2 continues to be dominant in Ireland and cases are falling. The seven-day positivity rate for PCR tests on Friday was 12.6pc. On Saturday, 26 patients with Covid-19 were in intensive care

Explaining its decision to scale down on reports, the HPSC said: “For the last two years, HPSC and surveillance partners have strived to provide timely Covid-19 data to stakeholders and the public. This task has been hugely resource-intensive.

“The changes taking effect from next week will enable HPSC and surveillance partners to continue to support the response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic through priority surveillance activities for Covid-19, while also reallocating valuable resources to non-Covid-19 priority areas.”

It said its central data hub will no longer be updated daily, but weekly. The hub presents daily trends and will be updated to include cases, deaths and outbreaks up to midnight on Tuesdays.

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