The Department of Public Health Mid-West, UL Hospitals Group, and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare would like to thank the public and frontline workers for their enormous sacrifices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also call on the people of Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary to continue their fight against the virus so that our most vulnerable and at-risk can get a chance to avail of the vaccine.
This week marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the Mid-West region. The past 12-month period has been one of the most challenging in living history for the public, frontline healthcare workers, and society.
There have been 17,425 cases recorded in the Mid-West between March 4, 2020 and February 28, 2021. The majority of these cases were recorded in 2021—8,903 in January, and 1,613 in February.
As of February 28 this year, there have been 10,502 cases in Limerick, 4,597 in Clare, and 2,326 in North Tipperary. As of February 28, there have been 364 confirmed and possible deaths associated with COVID-19 in the Mid-West region, with an age range of 42 to 105 years.
In mid-January, there were more than 1,450 healthcare staff in the Mid-West on COVID leave (due to being close contacts, suspected or confirmed cases). This was across the UL Hospitals Group, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare services, and private long-term care facilities.
However, the past year has shown the resilience and determination of every community to prevent the spread of this disease, and we commend the public for their efforts to date.
Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “We are now at a critical time of the pandemic where we have an opportunity to suppress this virus while allowing our most vulnerable get vaccinated. If we can achieve both, we can save lives and it enable us to swiftly investigate new COVID-19 cases when they arise.
“But this is only possible if we act this very minute. We acknowledge the fatigue many are feeling, but this virus wants us to be fatigued so we drop our guards. We are seeing evidence of this across all ages and a range of settings, including family gatherings, household visits among neighbours, small and large social events, not using appropriate PPE and distancing in some workplaces. We still see simple interactions leading to inter-county outbreaks across multiple settings.”
Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said: “In the year since COVID-19 was first detected, public healthcare in this region has been utterly transformed. The titanic efforts of healthcare workers, and the support of the public for guidelines that have denied them the human contact and curtailed the social customs they held so dear in pre-pandemic normality, have protected our hospitals from being overwhelmed by the coronavirus.”
“Hope is on the horizon as the COVID-19 vaccination programme rolls out across our communities. And UL Hospitals Group is tentatively making the first steps to re-open scheduled care in our hospitals,” Ms Cowan added.
“However, the battle that has cost us all so much personal and professional sacrifice is not over yet. Vaccination will take time to complete, and until a significant majority of the population is vaccinated, we must continue to adhere to the restrictions that have helped the healthcare frontline to prevail against the disease.”
Ms Cowan concluded: “The restrictions introduced in response to the latest and deadliest wave of the pandemic have been severe, but their results have shown what’s possible when we form a society-wide bulwark against the advance of COVID-19. The fatigue that these efforts have exacted upon us all cannot be underestimated, but we cannot drop our guard. We ask our patients, their loved ones, and the wider community, to bear with us and hold firm to the public health guidelines as we strive towards the ongoing easing of restrictions in healthcare and across society.”
Maria Bridgeman, Chief Officer, HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, said: “While there is a current trend of decreasing case numbers, we are appealing to the public to reduce any risks posed to them by adhering to the public health guidelines; wash your hands properly and often; cover coughs and sneezes; and practice social distancing. Very importantly, please do not visit households or gather in groups, as these actions have previously and continue to demonstrate impact on infection levels across the region.”
“The priority of HSE Mid West Community Healthcare is to protect the health and safety of our service users; those who are in nursing homes, disability settings, mental health facilities and wider congregated settings throughout the Mid-West.”
“There have been many challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, with large numbers of staff affected by COVID-19 and, as a result, not available for work. If case numbers increase again it will have a real impact on the vulnerable people in our society, staff and the wider community. If COVID positive numbers increase it will increase the challenge for all of us.”
“Social gatherings and household visits have real consequences. None of us want to see the current level of restrictions continue indefinitely. Please adhere to the public health guidelines, stay at home and limit your contacts. Holding firm and doing the right thing makes a real difference.”