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Why are Ireland’s case numbers relatively high?

A tweet from Alan Kelly of University College Cork today, refers to data collated by Johns Hopkins University on the rate of Covid-19 infections in Europe, as reported by The Guardian.

The statistics show that the Republic had among the highest number of cases per population of all reporting states, despite high rate of vaccination.


The rate of vaccination for the state stands at 145.27 per 100 of the population. That compares to an EU average of 128.55. However, the daily rate of infection stands at 286.55 compared to 98.66 in Germany, despite Germany having a somewhat lower rate of vaccination. The fact that vaccination rates are similar throughout western Europe does not explain the differences in daily case numbers. The United Kingdom, including the north of Ireland, has a vaccination rate not significantly lower than here, but daily case numbers this week are at twice the level here.

The number of new deaths reflects the level of cases, with a similar ratio between Ireland, the UK and Germany. The death ratio here is well down on its peak in early January – from 1,310 to 273 on October 10 – but as data from Rip.ie (compiled below by Séamus Coffey, Economics Department UCC on September 29th) also shows it is at a persistent level. If it remains at that level, or increases during the early winter period, the authorities may opt to return to more restrictions.


The reasons why case numbers remain relatively high in comparative terms is the subject of debate. Some believe that it can be attributed to the high number of tests, including of children and others who are unlikely to suffer significant effects even if infected , and the reliability of the testing procedure.



Others counter that this would still not explain the numbers in hospital and in Intensive Care Units. Of course there are also those who posit cultural reasons including the claim that infected persons are not properly isolating themselves. Advocates of retaining and even extending restrictions have pointed to young unvaccinated school children as one of the main causes.

There are of course diametrically different takes on why the virus persists despite the fact that over 90% of the adult population are fully vaccinated.


Or are they? Because it would seems that “fully vaccinated” is a moveable feast. Israel is perhaps a good example of a state where not only 100% vaccination but the promotion of boosters has become somewhat of a national obsession. You have others like Australia and New Zealand whose Covid regime is only possibly rivalled by North Korea despite low levels of infection and deaths.

Then you also have countries like India – with all its other disadvantages in terms of any health strategy – which had both a currently low rate of new case numbers and a significantly lower rate of vaccination, as indeed does its neighbour in Pakistan. The jury is still out on all of this, but there certainly appears to be no universal key to repressing the virus, as opposed to finding a pragmatic strategy that allows societies to carry on normally in acceptance that it will never be entirely eradicated.


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