Irish officials warn of ‘exponential’ growth in COVID-19

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The spread of COVID-19 in Ireland has reached an exponential growth phase and a coming surge in hospitalisations will create a “very significant challenge” for Irish society, a leading public health official said on Wednesday.

On Monday the Irish government banned indoor restaurant dining across the country and limited the number of visitors to people’s homes to try to curb the accelerating second wave of coronavirus infections – seen as arising from increased socialising after the lifting of lockdown.

But the government rejected a recommendation from public health officials on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to impose a much stricter lockdown.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Public Health Emergency Team officials said that the situation had worsened further since their weekend recommendation.

“We are looking at a rapidly deteriorating position, we’re looking at a position that is very precarious because we are in a phase of exponential growth,” Philip Nolan, head of NPHET’s COVID-19 modeling group, told a press briefing.

“Unless there is a very, very significant reduction in the levels of viral transmission over the coming weeks, we will see case numbers and hospitalisations that will be a very significant challenge for us as a society.”

Ireland’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled to 493 cases per day over the past three weeks.

But that figure could increase to between 1,100 and 1,500 cases daily by Nov. 7 if the rate of transmission is not immediately reduced, Nolan said.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, also a member of NPHET, told the same briefing that he was deeply concerned about the path of the infection.

Ireland’s 14-day cumulative case total on Wednesday of 112.8 per 100,000 people was the 15th highest infection rate among 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control.

A total of 39,584 COVID-19 infections and 1,816 deaths related to the respiratory disease have been reported in Ireland.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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