After coming out of a strict six-week lockdown in December, Ireland had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases across the continent. Fast forward to post-holiday times and now the country has found itself at the number one position of highest coronavirus rates in the whole world.
And now Ireland's medical experts and politicians are trying to piece everything together to figure out what exactly went wrong.
Current figures in Ireland
Professor Philip Nolan, member of Ireland's National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), says of the current situation:
The alarming level of disease is unprecedented in terms of our experience of the levels of Covid-19 in the community. We are seeing numbers of cases per day, and numbers in hospital, that we just could not have comprehended prior to Christmas.
As of last week, Ireland reported 1,323 cases per one million people making it the highest COVID-19 rate in the world. And just last Friday, the country reported the highest daily increase of infections since the beginning of the pandemic back in March with 8,248 new cases.
Various factors to consider
Experts believe that an amalgamation of factors is to blame for the exponential rise of infections since the lockdown was lifted. A spokesperson from Prime Minister Micheál Martin's office says that the seasonality of the virus, the presence of the super-contagious strain first found in the UK and the gathering of families over the holidays are all key factors to consider.
They explains that:
We had the rise in socializations over the Christmas period and our public health experts said the seasonality of the virus was a huge factor [And the more contagious UK variant first discovered in Ireland on Christmas Day] had a very significant impact on the growth of cases because it is believed to be between 50 and 70% more transmissible.
Statistics show that more than 54,000 people flew into Ireland between December 21 and January 3. As a result, Ireland shut restaurants, pubs serving food and several shops on Christmas Eve and has since further tightened its lockdown measures.
So far, Ireland has reported over 152,000 cases with 2,397 deaths since the start of the pandemic.