Homes and schools remain the most common locations of Covid-19 outbreaks in Ireland, according to the latest data.
The latest weekly report on outbreaks and clusters prepared by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) recorded 254 outbreaks in the week ending December 19th.
During this week, no outbreaks were recorded in restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels, guest houses, B&Bs or retail outlets.
There was one outbreak associated with a personal grooming service.
It comes as the Republic will enter a Level 5 lockdown with “adjustments” to suppress soaring infection rates, beginning with the closure of the hospitality sector from 3pm on Christmas Eve.
However, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has previously explained its advice to close the hospitality sector amid data linking limited outbreaks to restaurants and pubs.
Professor Philip Nolan said outbreaks most likely originating in these settings were being classified as outbreaks in private homes, due to a lack of resources to trace their origins.
Asked why data does not reflect outbreaks in hospitality settings, the Irish Times reports that deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said of 7,000 cases in the last fortnight, the source of infection is unknown in 3,000.
Schools and homes
In the week ending December 19th, private houses remained the most commonly reported outbreak location with a total of 171 clusters recorded.
The overall number of outbreaks notified in the week decreased by 153, compared to an updated number of 407 outbreaks notified the week prior.
Schools and childcare facilities were associated with 22 outbreaks, with 17 taking place among school children or staff and five among childcare facilities.
Two further outbreaks also took place among third-level students.
There were nine new acute hospital outbreaks, a further nine in nursing homes, two in community hospitals or long-stay units and five in residential institutions.
Five new outbreaks took place among vulnerable populations, with three among Irish Travellers, one in the Roma Community and another in a direct provision centre.
There were two travel or transport-associated outbreaks, while five workplace outbreaks were notified — two associated with manufacturing and one taking place in a business associated with meat processing.
St Stephen's Day
Since the beginning of August, which saw the beginning of Ireland’s second wave of the virus, 8,131 outbreaks have been reported.
78 per cent were recorded as occurring in private houses, one per cent in hospitals, one per cent in nursing homes.
It comes as public health officials have told Government that Ireland’s Covid-19 situation is now the most serious it has been since the pandemic arrived in March.
Current measures designed to suppress soaring infection rates will not be sufficient to bring cases below 1,000 each day and a full lockdown with the closure of non-essential retail and an earlier ban on household visits should come into force from St Stephen’s Day, Nphet has said.
The chair of Nphet’s epidemiological advisory group, Professor Philip Nolan, said the relaxation of restrictions on hospitality “coincides with a very rapid acceleration in the level of disease”.