The Director of Public Health with HSE West said a ‘perfect storm’ of factors led to the frightening surge of Covid-19 cases in Mayo.
Dr Breda Smyth said the high cases in the county and the Belmullet Local Electoral area, in particular, were caused by increased levels of socialising. The All-Ireland Final, festive gatherings, and people returning home from the UK and elsewhere have all been linked to alarming case numbers in recent weeks. “I do think it was multi-factorial. It all created a perfect storm that was probably pre-empted just before Christmas when establishments were open,” said Dr Smyth.
She said the All-Ireland Final and the run-up to Christmas created socialising opportunities that were to prove disastrous. “There were a lot of opportunities for socialising as a result one compounded another. Also like other parts of the country, we had people returning from overseas which leads to an increased risk of transmission,” said Dr Smyth. “I don’t think we can point the finger at any one particular event or circumstance,” she added.
The health chief said across the country people let their guard down. “It was a reaction to the season that was in it. We are not used to celebrating Christmas with Covid in our midst and that was the difference. It has had catastrophic effects on many communities, families and society,” said Dr Smyth. The UK strain of the virus is rampant in Ireland but Dr Smyth said there is no data available as of yet examining the strain in isolation in Mayo.
Dr Smyth said Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon has seen ‘very high attack rates’ of the virus in households, long-term residential settings, disability centres, and hospitals. The spread of the virus in disability centres in the region was not seen during previous waves of the virus. Across the HSE West area of Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon there have been more than 30 outbreaks in long-term residential settings and staff absenteeism remains a challenge.
With case numbers falling in the county, Dr Smyth urged the public to continue to adhere to public health advice. “There is an element of good news in that things are stabilising and we are beginning to see a bit of a reduction,” she stated.