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Reid says Covid positivity rate is now 8.4% with ‘very high levels’ of testing

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The coronavirus positivity rate is now 8.4 per cent amid “very high levels” of testing, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said this morning, due to an earlier-than-expected surge in infections caused by the Delta variant.

The last time the positivity rate was above 8 per cent was in May 2020.

Mr Reid also said more than 5.1 million vaccines have now been administered to residents of the Republic, with 63 per cent of adults fully vaccinated and 76 per cent partially.

There are 78 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Saturday, with 22 of those in intensive care (ICU), according to the State’s Covid-19 data hub.

Mr Reid said on Saturday morning that hospitalisations and ICU are “holding well”.

Fears are growing Ireland could have up to 2,000 cases of coronavirus a day by the end of the month.

Although a surge on cases here had been anticipated due a combination of restrictions being eased and the impact of the Delta variant, the spike in infections is happening about two weeks sooner than anticipated and moving more quickly.

A further 1,173 infections were reported in the Republic on Friday, with 79 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care.

The State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said just over 50 per cent of Friday’s cases were in those aged between 19 and 34.

National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) member Prof Philip Nolan said on Friday the growth in cases among 16- to 18-year-olds was exceptional”, while rates among 19- to 24-year-olds are also moving quickly.

Despite the sharp surge in cases in Ireland and many other countries, including Britain, non-essential international travel is due to resume from Ireland from Monday while 34 states have been removed from the Mandatory Hotel Quarantine list.

There are now 29 countries on the list, with the addition of Cuba – starting from 4am on Tuesday.

However, the sharp rise in cases is causing concern and on Saturday former British health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned prime minister Boris Johnson may be forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions if Covid cases continue rising into the autumn.

Donnelly

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly yesterday warned the Seanad of “roaring” case growth in Ireland. He told The Irish Times that modelling by Nphet shows “a wide range of cases for the end of July, with the maximum being around 2,000 cases a day”.

Another senior Government source said the threshold of 2,000 cases a day could be breached earlier than the end of the month.

A return to January levels of pressure on healthcare is not countenanced, but political sources are increasingly wary of the impact of infections – especially among the unvaccinated – on hospitals.

If cases hit 2,000 per day, hospital admissions could be in the region of 40 per day, with four to five deaths, Coalition figures believe.

Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology with Trinity College Dublin, said he cannot make a proper judgment on the impact this Delta wave is likely to have without knowing the age, health profiles and vaccination status of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units.

“If they are younger people in their 30s and 20s then you would be less concerned because they are going to be vaccinated in a few weeks, and those numbers then will drop,” he said. The situation would be more “concerning” if the people being hospitalised are older, he added.

People enjoying the good weather outside restaurants on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
People enjoying the good weather outside restaurants on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The biggest risk to younger cohorts is long Covid, but some of them are in hospital, he said. The number of people aged 13 to 18 who are infected with the virus is “very high” showing there is “significant transmission in adolescents”, he added.

19 to 24 year-olds

According to the latest HSE epidemiology report, this age cohort makes up 15.3 per cent of new cases over the last two weeks, while the 19 to 24 age group represents nearly a quarter.

A fifth of new cases are among those aged between 25 and 34, while just 2.8 per cent are in people aged 64 and older.

It is understood the latest Nphet modelling, which has incorporated the pace at which Delta is surging as well as the impact of vaccination, has shown an improvement in the outcomes associated with worst-case scenarios, but the best-case scenario is disimproving.

Mr Donnelly urged people to act in line with public health advice, emphasising the serious risks, especially for the unvaccinated: “It’s time once again to be super careful.”

A Department of Health source said there is “concern but not alarm” at current trends. Mr Donnelly said that possible death rates for just three months range between 335 and 1,760 people.

A further 1,173 infections were reported in the Republic on Friday, with 79 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care.

In Northern Ireland the Southern Health Trust has suspended visits at hospitals amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases. A further 1,380 people tested positive for coronavirus there on Friday.



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Johann van Graan non-committal on prospect of Conor Murray return

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Johann van Graan was somewhat less than adamant that Conor Murray will make his seasonal re-appearance in their United Rugby Championship (URC) fifth round match away to the Ospreys next Saturday night, which is just two weeks out from the first of Ireland’s November test series, with the All Blacks to follow a week later.

“He might possibly be involved next week,” said the Munster head coach after their latest act of escapology to beat Connacht 20-18 at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

Might possibly?

“We’ll see how the week goes. We’ve taken our time with his recovery, so if he comes through the week then we’ll make a call at the back end of the week whether we’re going to select him or not.”

Van Graan assured us that Murray is not injured.

“No, he’s good. He had non-23 training on Friday so really looking forward to getting him involved.”

Van Graan wore the smile of a relieved man after Connacht had pushed them to the wire with a clever, fired-up all-round display in a spicy derby, during which the lead changed hands five times.

“I think if you look at the table, it’s three Irish teams at the top. Connacht are always such a big team in the interpros and you’ve got to give credit to them. Last season they beat all three of the Irish teams away.

“That’s why the players and the coaches and the supporters, and everybody involved loves an interpro, because that’s what you get. It’s not a classic but for the purist it’s a battle.

“That’s what the game is about and that’s why Irish rugby is in such a good place because they have got four top teams and some very good players across the four teams. That was a grind from our side, and proud of the way we finished that with that try and the conversion,” he said in reference to Diarmuid Barron’s 78th minute try and Joey Carbery’s nerveless conversion.

His counterpart, Andy Friend, was left with immense pride in his team’s performance mixed with acute frustration at their infuriating inconsistency and key mistakes, not least at restart receptions, but also the key decisions that went against his team.

Most notable of these was the failure by TMO Brian MacNeice and referee Chris Busby to spot that Tadhg Beirne was clearly in front of the ball before hacking on Rory Scannell’s crosskick in the build-up to Chris Cloete’s 39th minute try.

“I’ve got to be careful here,” he said when asked if he felt Connacht don’t receive a fair rub of the green from officials. “I’ve been here three and a bit years, mate, and if it’s a 50-50 I rarely see it going our way.

“I know that, but listen we’ve got to keep pushing our limits and making sure that we’re trying to be as squeaky clean as we can with things. I’m just…. to me, that try and the missed offside there – that’s inexcusable. Whether it’s Connacht or somebody else, I don’t know, it’s just inexcusable.”

To compound his frustrations, nor does the URC have channels to go through.

“We don’t have a referees’ manager, so I’m assuming that URC will be looking at that and hopefully something happens to the TMO that missed it. But it doesn’t help us, mate.”

Putting his own team’s errors into perspective, Friend highlighted their lineout pressure, strike plays, kicking and defence.

“On the whole the majority was really good, there’ll always be elements we need to work on. Otherwise we’d be out of a job.”

With next Saturday’s home game against Ulster at the Aviva in mind, Friend said: “What we will use is that we know we’re a good football side.

“We’ve just pushed a good Munster team who haven’t looked like losing a game this year and have played some really good rugby.

“We’ve turned up at their home field, where we beat them last season, knowing full well there was going to be a kick-back and we pushed them all the way to their limits.

“So, we know we’re a good football side. Our blip last week (against the Dragons) was a blip. We just have to make sure we never drop to that again and we keep our standards high.”

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Irish man (24) who drowned in swimming pool in Marbella is named

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A 24-year-old man who drowned in a swimming pool near Marbella in Spain has been named locally in Co Clare as Irish Defence Forces member Gerard McMahon.

Authorities responded to a distress call at 10.25am on Friday. The alarm was raised by friends who found Mr McMahon lifeless in the pool.

Spanish authorities are treating the death of the holiday maker as a “tragic accident”.

Mr McMahon lived in the Killaloe area of Co Clare. Local priest Fr Jerry O’Brien confirmed he had met the family of the young man and expressed his sympathy on behalf of the community.

Ogonnelloe GAA posted a tribute to Mr McMahon who was well known and liked in the community.

“It is with profound shock and sadness that we learned today of the sudden passing of our young member and friend, Gerard McMahon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, Pat and Carmel, his sister Bríd, and all the McMahon family at this extremely difficult time.”

The club Facebook page posted a picture of Mr McMahon from 2016 when he and his team mates won the Division 3 League.

Scarriff Hurling also paid tribute to Mr McMahon who played for them at juvenile level. “Always with pride, great skill and giving all to the team and club.”

Meanwhile, local Fine Gael councillor Joe Cooney said the family of the young man were in the thoughts and prayers of the community.

Mr McMahon was a Private in the First Infantry Battalion in Renmore Barracks in Galway. St Patrick’s Garrison Church posted a message on Facebook asking for prayers for Mr McMahon and for his “family and comrades”.

A postmortem was expected to take place over the weekend at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga.

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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Don’t waste energy switching

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For years, Money Mail has urged readers to regularly switch energy supplier.

It wasn’t the most glamorous money-saving tip, but sticking with your existing provider meant you were almost certainly overpaying. 

And the return on this straightforward, mundane chore was lucrative, with households saving hundreds of pounds a year. But for now, you should forget all that.

The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices. And the market remains incredibly volatile, with experts struggling to predict what will happen over the coming months.

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers   

This means suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, are just not able to offer competitive fixed deals.

Some comparison websites are still running an energy switching service, but there are only a handful of tariffs listed. 

And, as we reported last week, some would cost the average household almost £3,000 a year.

So for now, your best course of action is to stay put.

If you are coming to the end of a fixed deal, roll onto your supplier’s standard variable tariff. 

These default deals are protected by the energy watchdog’s price cap — £1,277 a year for the average gas and electricity user — until April 2022. And there are no exit fees, so you are free to switch away the moment better deals return.

For those who signed up to ultra‑cheap deals a year or two ago, there is no getting away from the fact that your bills are going to rise. 

But locking into a new fixed deal now could mean you’re hit with even higher energy costs over the cold winter months.

To avoid adding to any confusion, Money Mail has temporarily removed all energy tariffs from our Best Buys tables. 

But rest assured, we are tracking the market closely and will update you as soon as something changes.

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can't offer competitive fixed deals

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can’t offer competitive fixed deals

Tip top!

While on the topic of rising bills, a big thank you to everyone for their top energy-saving tips after I publicly scolded my husband, Chris, last week.

Money Mail reader Molly Clark suggests leaving the oven open after cooking so not to waste the heat, using candles for softer lighting and ditching the dishwasher in favour of a good old-fashioned washing-up bowl. 

Another reader, Robert, goes a step further and washes his dishes with cold water. 

A small squirt from a 29p bottle of diluted white vinegar along with a dash of washing-up liquid on a little green fabric scouring cloth used in circular motions will ensure they are squeaky-clean, he assures me.

But I was most taken by Julie Priest’s suggestion of a fridge alarm that will go off when the door is left open.

Amazon has one with a ‘repeated siren’ mode — and if that doesn’t teach Chris to close it, I don’t know what will.

But at £21.99, I might stick to nagging for now.

Keep those tips coming!

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix's Squid Game)

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix’s Squid Game)

Need for Netflix

It’s fascinating to see how our spending priorities have changed since the pandemic.

Take the popular streaming service Netflix. Once a luxury, a monthly subscription is now considered essential, according to a report by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association published yesterday. 

One pensioner commented that their partner’s quality of life would just not be the same without it.

Another man from Wales said that he had not realised how important dining out was for ’emotional well-being’.

But as the cost of living soars, experts fear people could cut back on pension saving. With many already failing to put aside enough for the lifestyle they want in retirement, this could prove disastrous.

So if you have spare cash leftover at the end of the month, consider using it to give your future self a better life.

It could be me…

Inspired by a colleague, I bought my first ever EuroMillions lottery ticket last Friday. It was a rollover with a juicy £174million jackpot, and I was feeling lucky.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. But what fun I had daydreaming about what I’d do with such a windfall. 

And since no one scooped the prize money, I figured there was no harm in having one more go in last night’s record £184million draw. Who knows, I could be a multi-millionaire by the time you read this.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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