Department of Public Health appeal to the public regarding 'social gatherings'

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In a statement from the Department of Public Health Mid-West today the state agency is expressing concerns over an increase in social gatherings across the region, and is appealing to the public to avoid these behaviours during this critical period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The slideshow above is an example of two community outbreaks in the Mid-West that led to a significant number of Covid-19 cases and further clusters in different settings, prior to the third wave.

In outbreak 1, a community outbreak of 38 cases occurred as a result of transmission among student population through a variety of social contact settings (i.e. social contact/gatherings, household visits, etc). One of these cases worked at a café/restaurant where transmission to two work colleagues occurred, causing a workplace outbreak. These two work colleagues spread the virus to family members within their households.

In outbreak 2, a community outbreak of 61 cases occurred through transmission at social gatherings and household visits among the student population. One of these cases worked at a hotel during a wedding, and transmission occurred among 16 wedding guests and work colleagues. Two cases in this further outbreak spread the virus within their households. There was transmission from one home to their extended family. One student in the initial outbreak went on to infect a family member in their household.

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “These are just two of many incidents where social events have led to very complex outbreaks in the region. December saw a significant number of social gatherings of all age groups, resulting in a concerning level of illness and death this month. We do not want to repeat that, as we are still managing and investigating outbreaks among our most vulnerable.

“As testing for close contacts resumes, our priority is to bring infection numbers to a minimum in the community. This will allow us to respond effectively to those who need our help the most. While Covid-19 cases are decreasing slowly, we are seeing a widespread adherence to public health guidelines. However, it only takes a small number of incidents to undo the hard work of the majority. It is important not to undo our efforts to date.” Dr Mannix stated.

In recent weeks, Public Health Mid-West has identified a growing number of social gatherings that have led to new infections and outbreaks in recent weeks. These include non-essential household visits and large social gatherings.

Dr Marie Casey, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, who works directly with third level institutions in the Mid-West region, says they are starting to see initial evidence of student clusters again, and is urging all students to act responsibly and adhere to public health guidelines.

“We know that it is a very trying time for students with the current restrictions in place. We acknowledge the numerous sacrifices they have made over the past 11 months, and we understand the urge to visit friends and classmates in the current circumstances. However, whether you are a student or not, household visits or gatherings should not be taking place at this time. I have seen on numerous occasions how an innocent social visit to a household has led to serious outbreaks, and with the current high levels of community transmission, this can happen again if we are not vigilant.”

On January 19, there were 198 Covid-19 cases recorded in the Mid-West region. This dropped to 60 on February 1.