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'Kildare should remain under lockdown but not Offaly and Laois' - Nphet

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Sticking to the task at hand: Taoiseach Micheál Martin on a visit to Nagle Community College in Mahon, Cork, yesterday.  Photo: Julien Behal

Sticking to the task at hand: Taoiseach Micheál Martin on a visit to Nagle Community College in Mahon, Cork, yesterday. Photo: Julien Behal

Sticking to the task at hand: Taoiseach Micheál Martin on a visit to Nagle Community College in Mahon, Cork, yesterday. Photo: Julien Behal

Kildare will remain in local lockdown while restrictions in Laois and Offaly will be lifted under recommendations from health officials.

After meeting to examine the impact of the restriction on the three counties, Nphet decided the spread of the virus had been contained enough in Laois and Offaly to ease the rules.

However, after examining data on Covid-19 for Kildare, committee members recommended keeping people in the county under local lockdown.

The Cabinet will decide today whether to implement the recommendations from Nphet.

If accepted, people in Laois and Offaly will be able to travel outside their county boundaries again, but not into Kildare where lockdown measures will remain.

Allan Shine, the chief executive of Kildare Chamber of Commerce, said it had already estimated that more than 1,200 jobs had been lost in Kildare, mainly in tourism and hospitality.

"Businesses are dying. Public health is the number one concern for everyone, but the effect on the economy also needs to be considered," Mr Shine said.

It came as a study showed Ireland is a long way from reaching 'herd immunity' from coronavirus - and the vast majority of people are unlikely to have been infected by it. The study reported a prevalence of infection of just 0.6pc in Sligo and 3.1pc in Dublin.

Based on these results, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) estimated the proportion of people between 12 and 69 years of age with coronavirus antibodies among the population living in Ireland was 1.7pc.

Principal investigator Dr Derval Igoe said this meant that the vast majority of people living in Ireland had not been infected with coronavirus by the time of the study.

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"As a society, we need to continue with our public health measures, including physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, until a vaccine is available," she said.

Meanwhile, some outpatient care is being shifted to a Dublin hotel as hospitals continue to cope with the impact of Covid-19 on services.

It emerged yesterday that some children's clinics will be held at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.

The hotel is also being used as a drive-through centre for people who suffer from the eye condition glaucoma.

HSE chief operations officer Ann O'Connor said Citywest Hotel is also still being used to provide accommodation for people with the virus who cannot self-isolate at home, and the recent rise in cases of the disease has led to 174 rooms being filled again.

Earlier, it emerged that some people who are now testing positive for Covid-19 have been in close contact with up to 50 others.

The scale of risk emerged amid fears about the resurgence of the virus and criticism of the HSE for delays in testing and tracing.

HSE chief Paul Reid said the recent spike in demand for tests as well as the complexity in cases, including language difficulties, had led to a slowdown but delays have now been reduced. The median time from referral for a test to the tracing of contacts is now 2.3 days, down from 2.8 days.

It is quicker in hospital than in the community. In one day last week 11,000 swabs were carried out. But Mr Reid conceded there were also outlier cases where people were left waiting days for a test or a result. "The surge caused a strain to testing and tracing but we have good escalation processes in place," he said.

There was a 210pc increase in swabbing in recent weeks.

The number of contact tracing centres has been scaled up to five again, after services were stood down while levels of the virus were low.

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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