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‘Across all age groups’: Donegal outbreaks linked to Communions, house parties and retirement celebrations

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Dr Anthony Breslin said it is hoped that the impact of restrictions in the country will be seen by the end of next week.

A DONEGAL PUBLIC health specialist has said Covid-19 outbreaks in the county that led to the implementation of additional restrictions were in all age groups and linked to a variety of social events at which people failed to adhere to the health guidance.

Donegal’s 14-day Covid-19 incidence rate eclipsed Dublin on Thursday evening and the government announced the county was to enter Level 3.

Dr Anthony Breslin told TheJournal.ie cases began to rise at the end of August and beginning of September, something that was expected as restrictions were lifted.

“But the numbers increased more than we had anticipated,” he said. 

“If you had a big school with figures coming in from an outbreak in that one school, you might have a few more cases in the community linked to that, but it’s still just one particular area.

“Because we had cases cropping up all over the county – particularly in the mid-north and north-east parts near Stranorlar and Lifford – that did show there was something going on.”

In the case of Stranorlar, it has 14-day incidence rate of 336 per 100,000 population – the highest in the country. 

He said between the central contact tracing system and local teams working on complex cases, there was a realisation that there was “community spread and it was due to people, for whatever reason, not sticking to the guidance”.

It appeared people were having events, – christenings and Communions for example – and I have no problem with that – but some had larger numbers attending, particularly in their homes with catering in their houses afterwards and had maybe a couple more people in their homes than they should have had. 

“If a child has a Communion you have the parents and siblings and the aunts and uncles, and it can mushroom quite quickly. And then of course people can forget inside the house that they have to practice social distancing.”

Dr Breslin said the small outbreaks linked to theses family and social events involved people “across all age groups”.

“The younger people having house parties, then the Communions, unfortunately there were some related to funeral gatherings, and also retirements and 50th birthday parties. 

In addition to that you might have people who are doing what they should be doing at work but once they step outside they forget, when they meet with pals for coffee or a cigarette, or share the lift and don’t wear face masks etc. 

Dr Breslin said movement across the border for work, school and shopping is a factor but it has not contributed significantly to the spread, which has mostly been among family and social circles. 

Impact of restrictions

He said he can understand people’s fatigue with the restrictions and with the public health advice but he said people need to recognise the “phenomenal role and impact” they can have.

“If this had been a bad storm or a bad drought, the storm would last a couple of days, the drought would last a couple of weeks but this has been going since the end of January, it’s very difficult and people are trying to get on with their lives, to get back to work and school and we have to allow and support that.

“But people have to realise we are in a very different environment now and they have to go that extra mile.”

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In particular he urged people who are feeling sick to stay away from others and contact their GPs. 

He said it is expected that the impact of the restrictions, if people reduce their contacts and follow the health advice, should start to be seen by the middle or end of next week.

Under the Level 3 restrictions for Donegal, people are also asked to only have visitors from one other household in their home or garden, and to work from home unless absolutely necessary.

Indoor dining in pubs and restaurants is not be allowed, with only outdoor dining permitted to a maximum of 15 people.

Unlike Dublin (which is also on Level 3), ‘wet’ pubs can remain open but with the same limit of a maximum of 15 people outdoors only.

People living in the county have also been told not to leave other than for essential purposes. 

Gardaí conducting early morning checkpoints at Bridgend, County Donegal over the weekend.

Gardaí conducting early morning checkpoints at Bridgend, County Donegal over the weekend.

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