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Donegal's Covid problem must be tackled

Stephen Oreilly

Despite having a "very positive" meeting about Covid statistics in County Donegal with political figures and health officials at the weekend, those statistics are still a cause for considerable concern.

While the latest information is that there is a 14-day average infection rate of 127 per 100,000 people across the Republic, in Donegal that figure is about 300 infections per 100,000 people. While it is striking that the northernmost county has over double the country's average, it is even more stark when compared to Northern Ireland where latest figures showed a rate of 34 infections per 100,000 people.

As always it is important to remember that these are not just figures for a graph, they are people and those infection rates will have serious consequences for some of those people and for the family, friends and complete strangers they may come into contact with.

We are still learning about the consequences of contracting Covid 19. It is now clear that a not inconsequential number of people will suffer some sort of what has become known as Long Covid, where they will have to contend with consequences of the disease for perhaps years to come.

Following the weekend meeting of political leaders and health officials at the weekend it was made clear that the primary cause of the higher infection rates in Donegal was "persistent and unfortunately reasonably widespread non-compliance of measures". Cited were breaking of the rules around things like birthday parties and social events linked to funerals.

So serious has the situation been judged in the county that there have been some warnings that it may not see the easing of some restrictions that the rest of the country will enjoy from May 10. That would be particularly unjust for the majority of people who have acted sensibly and with the safety and wellbeing of their friends and neighbours kept in mind.

It is also important that health authorities and politicians strive to keep the whole of the island on an improving path of recovery for the sake of economic wellbeing as well as human health.

Donegal's economy enjoys a huge boost from the visits of many holidaymakers from the rest of the country, particularly in the summer. It would be a serious blow to that economy if that holiday specific source of income was to be further jeopardised by the high levels of Covid in the county. Hopefully a last push for compliance can bring Donegal back into line with the rest of the Republic and that the whole of the island will soon be on a level footing.

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