What is the Covid data to back up reopening plans?

The reopening of social and economic life in May and June is on track, Ministers say. So what do the numbers show?
What is the Covid data to back up reopening plans?

Tomas Doherty

The reopening of social and economic life in May and June is on track, Government Ministers have suggested in recent days.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that hairdressers and retailers could reopen next month, following similarly optimistic comments by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris.

Citing a drop in infections and hospital admissions, Mr Martin said “the strategy is working”.

So what do the numbers show?

Cases falling

The average number of new Covid-19 cases has been falling consistently since late March.

The seven-day rolling average for new infections stood at about 593 on March 25th – today the figure is down to an average of 377 new cases per day.

The number of Covid patients in hospital has fallen to 172, down from a peak of 2,020 on January 18th.

Intensive care wards have seen a similar drop – from a high of 221 patients in January to 47 today.

Test positivity rates have plummeted since the beginning of the year.

On January 7th more than 22 per cent of those tested received a positive result, a proportion not seen since April when the State was testing far fewer people.

Now fewer than 2.7 per cent of tests return a positive result, while labs are processing more than 100,000 tests every day.

Covid hotspots

Kildare, Donegal and Offaly are the counties with highest infection rates, as of April 20th, while Kilkenny, Sligo and Cork have the lowest rates.

Most areas have seen cases and infections fall over the last two-week period.

Vaccination progress

A prolonged period of lockdown has helped to bring case numbers down, while the vaccination programme has faced disruption and delay.

The slow progress to date means the State will struggle to hit its ambition of administering 860,000 doses in April. The target of giving a single dose to 80 per cent of adults by the end of June also appears increasingly out of reach.

Almost 864,000 people in the Republic had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by April 19th, according to the HSE.

Some 355,500 people have had both doses of a vaccine.

Last Thursday saw more than 33,500 doses administered, a daily record.

This means about 23 per cent of the Republic's adult population (aged 18 and over) has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared to almost 60 per cent in the North.

According to the latest available data on April 21st, Ireland has a vaccination rate slightly below the European Union average, with 24.5 doses administered per 100 people.

Malta, Hungary, Austria and Estonia have the fastest rollouts in the EU.

The UK, Serbia, Iceland and Norway have also administered more vaccines per head of population than Ireland.

Reopening plans

The Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to proceed as planned with the further gradual easing of a number of restrictions from Monday.

This includes the reopening of facilities for outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, and outdoor visitor attractions including zoos and heritage sites.

The maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25 but the ban on other gatherings remains.

The Cabinet is to meet next week to consider advice from public health experts, with ministers considering which restrictions can be eased in May.

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