Warning for Kildare, Laois and Offaly after 'significant' rise in Covid-19 cases

People wear face masks on the street in Athy, Co Kildare. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Health officials have given a specific warning to people living in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly due to a 'significant' rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

Speaking on Thursday evening, acting chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said almost half of all the cases in the Republic over the past two weeks have been in the three counties.

He said: “While the majority of these cases can be accounted for by outbreaks, this volume of cases is significant and our main priority now is to ensure that these outbreaks do not lead to widespread community transmission in the region.

“NPHET [National Public Health Emergency Team] continues to monitor the situation closely. I urge people in these counties to remain vigilant to stop the further spread of COVID-19 in these areas.”

Dr Glynn did not suggest that NPHET was recommending new restrictions in those counties, but he did not rule out some form of targeted approach in the future.

He said outbreaks of the disease had occurred at meat processing plants in Kildare town, Tullamore in Co Offaly and Timahoe in Co Laois.

Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, also confirmed that the 'R' rate – an important measure of how quickly Covid-19 is spreading – is now estimated to be 1.8 in the Republic.

He said: "A reproduction number of almost 2 is a serious concern, and although we have not yet seen a significant increase in community transmission, there is a significant risk this could develop over the coming days and weeks emphasising the need for each of us to be extremely cautious that we do not contribute to the transmission of the virus.”

'R' represents the number of individuals who, on average, will be infected by a person with the virus. A measure above one is an indication that infections are on the rise.

Five further deaths and 69 more confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the Republic on Thursday.

Four of the newly confirmed deaths are from April and June.