The Covid blame game: where are the clusters and how are they contributing to a sharp rise in infection rates?

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Frustration is rising as Covid-19 restrictions again force businesses into a dangerous pause with livelihoods at risk.

he mood has shifted while the blame game for the spread of the virus intensifies.

Are college students congregating with abandon or is it the fault of employers who are putting pressure on staff to come to the office when they could work from home?

Rocket fuel

We know that Covid-19 is highly infectious. It loves any group – even as few as two people. It flourishes in crowds and it adores travel, journeying from one person to another along the lengthiest transmission chain possible.

Social gatherings where Covid rules are not followed are rocket fuel for the virus. It will go anywhere, anytime.

Scientists have found that many transmission chains begin with “superspreading” events.

One person, often in a crowded indoor space, passes the virus to dozens of others.

Some estimates say that 10pc of people have been causing 80pc of new infections. So Covid-19 will exploit any opportunity for infection, from the football pitch to the living room.

Sports revelries

Public health doctors have long pointed out the problems with sporting activities have mostly involved post-match celebrations. They have contributed to the spread.

These are breeding grounds for infection with a combination of boisterous spirits and alcohol.

Figures show nine clusters have been linked to sporting activity and fitness. It is unclear how many of these happened during play or training, or whether it followed a later get-together.

There is particular frustration in Cavan this week that groups getting together after GAA matches have been among those who tested positive before returning to homes around the county.

Similar incidents have been cited in other counties, including Donegal. The big test now will be how the GAA inter-county season affects the spread of Covid-19 and whether it will trigger more of these risky events.

Club championships have been suspended for now, but the return of the national league involves counties currently in Level 4. Monaghan will meet Kerry in Inniskeen on Saturday, while Cavan play Kildare in Newbridge on Sunday.

Protocols to reduce risk have been put in place.


Colleges and universities

Throughout the summer, third level colleges did not figure in statistics around clusters but they are back and making their mark. There were three of these clusters open last week, and reports of parties and get-togethers.

There is a particular worry around students who living on campus, although regulations are in place.

When a student gets sick the impulse is to go home, but they are advised not to do so because they will bring the virus with them.

Restaurant and cafes

There were 20 clusters of Covid-19 open in restaurants and cafes up to last Saturday.

This is despite Level 3 restriction banning indoor dining from early October.

Another nine clusters were still open in pubs and two related to hotels.

Part of the reason for the restrictions imposed on the hospitality sector was the claim that, in some cases, people were catching the virus while they were out and bringing it home where they were infecting members of their family.

Workplace

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has spoken of the “creeping” rise in the numbers of employees returning to the workplace after working at home. The advice remains, if you can work from home, continue to do so.

There were 99 clusters open in workplaces up to last Saturday. Public health doctors cite a number of factors including staff mingling, lack of physical distancing and general over-familiarity from chats at the printing machine to huddling together at the lunch table.

Some of the recent outbreaks involved food and beverage related industries, the construction sector and one in a business associated with the construction sector.

Household outbreaks

The instruction this week to limit callers to the house to essential visitors –who can include tradesman – comes on foot of figures showing 3,532 outbreaks in private homes to date.

There are 1,906 of these open. Some have arisen from a member of a household bringing it back to the house, but clearly it is also linked to people from different households – including relatives – getting together.

Another 26 outbreaks associated with social gatherings are open and these cover a multitude, from christenings to birthday parties.

Easy scapegoats

It might be easier to find a scapegoat than look at our own behaviour. That is not to say those who transgress need to take responsibility.

It all comes back to the individual. That post-match celebration might cost you your job if your employer has to shut down due to another lockdown. The family get-together with relatives from other households also runs the risk of someone becoming unnecessarily sick with this terrible virus.

If we have learned anything from recent months it is that shortcuts around Covid-19 will be found out and come back to haunt us.

Source: Irish News