County Wexford has witnessed an increase of 20 Covid-19 cases within four days, coinciding with a huge rise in the national figures.
From July 16 up until August 5 no new cases of the virus had been recorded in the county - which has been one of the best performing nationally - but the announcement of 11 fresh cases on Wednesday sparked concerns that the county was far from safe. On that day there were more Covid-19 cases recorded in County Wexford than in Dublin, a county which has been leading the grim leader-board of cases, on average.
Additional cases were recorded in County Wexford on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, bringing the total to 20. Nationally hundreds of cases have been reported daily, the highest concentration of which coming from meat processing plants in counties within the Dublin commuter belt. There has now been a total of 1,772 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland and 26,644 confirmed cases.
News that 11 cases were recorded following testing on Monday [a two-day time lag applies between testing and the figures being announced by Nphet], led to the rumour mill across the county going into overdrive. Several businesses and communities were suggested as the epicentre of the outbreak but sources believe there is no cluster and the cases are spread throughout the county.
As of Monday there were four suspected cases at Wexford General Hospital for Covid-19. One patient was in the hospital's ICU over the weekend but is understood to left the unit.
There were positive signs in Co Wexford in late May, early June when the county recorded weeks when no cases were recorded. The number of cases hovered around the low 200s, far below the figures for neighbouring counties like Wicklow and Kilkenny.
As of Monday the figure stands at 244, with no increase recorded on the previous day.
County Wexford's Covid death rate stands at 20. The highest week total of deaths - as recorded by the Central Statistics Office - was April 24 when eight people lost their lives in the county from the virus. Half of the deaths were people who contracted the virus at Cherry Grove Nursing Home near Campile, after an outbreak at the facility which was brought under control.
The median age of people who have died from the virus is 76.
Independent TD Verona Murphy has urged people not to panic, saying most of the cases are asymptomatic.
'Our community transmissions are quite low but we can't get complacent,' she said. 'Washing hands has diminished with the current emphasis on facemasks. We have to practise vigilance and take personal responsibility as neither the government nor the guards can do anything for us. If you go into a public premises like a gastropub that doesn't take your details then you should not be there.'
Deputy Murphy encouraged people to download the Covid Tracker app.
She said there is a strong economic argument for keeping society open and the government and the National Public Emergency Team (Nphet) need to find a way to align their thinking more.
'The hotels are open six weeks. At the end of the day people want to know where the cases are but they wouldn't be happy if you told them the name of the person. People need to practise the etiquette of Covid. Pinpointing the case down to a housing estate; that doesn't matter. There were so many rumours surround the 11 cases - it serves no purpose. Wear your mask, wash your hands and practise social distancing. It's the reality now and I'm not sure with Nphet the business and health are just not mixing. We have to get to grips with that or the country will go bust.'
Keeping businesses open and people working is key to the nation's economic recovery, she said, adding that social isolation is another important consideration.
'People are suffering from social annihilation. In pubs we don't have the community element that was there before. It's not like six months ago. We know what we are dealing. Many cases are asymptomatic, ICU numbers are down, as are hospital numbers. I have had people on to me saying the government are not looking at the science but at the end of the day we have the science telling us to social distance, wash our hands and wear a mask. People want to go back to how they were in January or Christmas; we can't do that at the moment. All we can do is work and live our lives, that's all we can do.'
She wants schools to reopen fully for the sake of the county's and nation's children.
'Children need to go back to school because they are not socially developing. If anyone thinks schools will be Covid free; that's rubbish. There will be incidents of it but it's how it's handled. Some schools probably will have to close but if parents drop their children off and maintain a distance from teachers, it can work. There is no such thing as zero risk and we may never have a vaccine.'
Describing the virus as the biggest health and economic challenge the country has faced, Deputy Murphy said it cannot hold back society. 'We have to find a good way to make it work,' she said.
Wexford People Premium
The HSE has carried out an assessment of Wexford food company, Scallans in Whitemill Industrial Esate where an employee was diagnosed with coronavirus a few days ago, and confirmed that there is no risk to staff or customers.