Covid cases plummet as first delivery of Pfizer’s antiviral treatment reaches Irish shores

Covid-19 cases are falling but the level of infection still remains high as the Easter holiday weekend and the prospect of more socializing approaches, it emerged yesterday,

The Health Protection Monitoring Center said last week there had been a 34.9% drop in positive PCR tests.

The highest percentage of cases was in the 35-44 age group, accounting for one in five infections.

The highest age-specific incidence was observed in people over 85 years of age.

The highest percentage of people by age group hospitalized with Covid-19 were over 85, accounting for a quarter of those who required admission.

Among those who report testing positive with home antigen tests, the average age is 37 to 38.

An additional 5,883 new infections were reported yesterday, down 10% in a week.

There were 1,182 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 58 in intensive care.

It comes as a new Covid-19 advisory group to replace the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was announced yesterday. It will be chaired by outgoing chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who leaves in two months for a professorship at Trinity College.

It will have much less power than Nphet and will mainly monitor and advise on the Covid-19 situation.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has confirmed that the first shipment of its oral antiviral treatment for Covid-19 has arrived in Ireland.

About 5,000 doses of Paxlovid, which can reduce the risk of hospitalization and serious illness if given early in the infection, are here.

Pfizer’s drug is part of a class known as protease inhibitors.

It is designed to block an enzyme the coronavirus needs to multiply and can reduce the risk of being hospitalized and dying.

It should be given as soon as possible after catching Covid, ideally within three to five days.

Meanwhile, the Marie Keating Foundation said the adoption of the Bowel-
FIT (fecal immunochemical test) home testing kits increased by almost 10% in 2021 from January to September, with more than 51.5% of those invited to take a FIT test returning testable samples.

However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions, those eligible for BowelScreen are now considering an additional one-year wait for screening, which means that the interval for sending a FIT kit went from every two years to every three.

The foundation asks the public to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of bowel cancer, speak to their GP if they notice a change in their toileting habits and take their BowelScreen FIT test on arrival.

Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, is the second biggest contributor to cancer deaths in Ireland, accounting for 12% of cancer deaths in men and 10% in women according to the most recent figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland. (NCRI).

However, when detected, early bowel cancer is highly treatable and five-year survival rates currently stand at over 65%.

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