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Cluster fears after anniversary leads to 20 cases in 1 family


Graffiti on a shop window in Dublin city centre in March urging the public to wash their hands. Photo: Brian Lawless

Graffiti on a shop window in Dublin city centre in March urging the public to wash their hands. Photo: Brian Lawless

Graffiti on a shop window in Dublin city centre in March urging the public to wash their hands. Photo: Brian Lawless

Almost 20 members of one family have tested positive for coronavirus after gathering to mark the one-month anniversary of a relative who died from the illness.

The family, who live in small border village, lost an elderly relative four weeks ago and some of the extended family got together recently to commemorate her passing.

The virus is believed to have spread among those gathered, who returned to their respective households and passed it to other family members, including several young children.

It comes as figures show the number of clusters being detected in private households is rapidly rising.

Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) show an 87pc increase in the number of clusters in private dwellings in the last week.

There were 390 outbreaks attributed to private households on June 21, compared to 728 cases one week later on June 28. A cluster is defined as two or more people being infected with the disease in one location.

Prof Jack Lambert, Specialist in Infectious Diseases at the Mater Hospital, said we need to "get back to basics" when it comes to preventing infection.

"There is a lot of talk about bringing Covid in from other countries but there is still Covid in Ireland," he said.

"But there are still infections among people who haven't travelled and that continues to be a risk.

"As soon as we let down our guard, be it with social distancing, or hand washing, or wearing masks, then it's a no-brainer that the infections will flare up again. We need to get back to basics.


"If you are in a family gathering all of the basics apply.

"If you are congregating and not socially distancing and there is one person in the room who has Covid and doesn't know it, then everyone in the room is going to get it. That's what's happening already."

As the country reopens, Prof Lambert warned that public complacency could lead to further spikes.

"This is a new virus that we don't know exactly how contagious it is," he said.

"One person can spread it to three others. One person with no symptoms can spread it to 10 other people.

"They are considered super transmitters, but we don't know how common that is. They may not be super-spreaders because it's happening more frequently than we know.

"The point is that we don't know, and everyone has a personal responsibility.

"As we open up, we need to re-enforce the basics, hand-washing, covering the mouth, wearing masks - because the flare-ups are going to happen and we need to keep them to a minimum."

Public health officials have warned that though the overall number of cases continues to drop, the virus is moving into household settings.

"We know from experience internationally again, that as you drive down the spread of the virus you're going to see more in private households," said deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn when increasing clusters began to appear in households last month.

Dr Glynn called for people to isolate themselves and contact their GP if suspected Covid-19 symptoms are present in their households.

At a recent briefing, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said that the increase in the number of household coronavirus clusters was "a worry".

He said that even though the rate of transmission of the virus was low in the community, there were still outbreaks of the virus and it can cause harm particularly to vulnerable people.


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