Despite fears that the number of tourists visiting Kerry this summer would lead to a major surge in COVID-19 cases, Kerry has seen only a relatively modest increase since May.
hile cases have increased in recent weeks – going from 317 on August 1 to 326 this week – the number of cases across the county has, so far, remained, comparatively, low.
In fact, the number of cases in the county increased by just 15 between May 18 and August 18, the height of the tourist season, when tens of thousands of visitors arrived and spent time in the county.
By comparison, in Dublin – the epicentre of the Irish COVID outbreak – the number of cases soared by 1,091 in the same period. It should be noted that much of the increase in Dublin can be linked to the capital’s far larger and far more densely packed population.
Other counties with cities haven’t fared as badly. In Cork, the number of cases increased by 222; Limericks case numbers increased by only 66 while in Galway – another popular holiday destination – the case numbers went up by only 53.
What is also notable is where the Kerry cases have actually materialised. Of the 326 Covid cases confirmed in Kerry since the beginning of the outbreak, the largest proportion have been in areas that tend to attract fewer tourists.
Tralee accounts for 96 of the cases, with 78 in the Tralee Rural electoral district and 18 in the Urban area.
The next largest number was recorded in the Cahersiveen area, where there have been 25 cases. While the town is in the very heart of the Ring of Kerry, the cases have nothing to do with tourism, with most associated with the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre.
Other popular tourist counties also appear to have fared well through the summer months. Donegal saw just 31 additional cases while Waterford has recorded an additional 24 since mid-May.
Increase in cases, but no ‘surge’ as of yet
The number of COVID cases in Kerry has risen sharply since the start of the month, but it is probably too early to label it as a surge.
There have been nine additional cases in Kerry since the start of August, but the actual daily increases remain low and are still far below those seen in the county at the outset of the crisis.
In recent days, several national and local media outlets have made reference to a surge in COVID cases in Kerry and in Donegal, but daily figures show the virus growth rate in Kerry is still relatively slow. It remains well below the national rate of increase and growth levels seen in hotspots such as Kildare and Dublin.
Since the start of August the number of cases here has increased, typically, by one or two cases every two to three days.
By comparison with the period between the end of May and the end of June, when the number of cases only increased by two overall, it is definitely a cause for concern.
However the relatively static numbers – by comparison with several other counties – suggests Kerry’s efforts to slow the virus spread are still proving to be generally successful. In Kildare, where there most certainly has been a ‘surge’, the number of cases has soared by 571 since the start of August. Clare, another county experiencing so-called ‘surge’ has seen an additional 52 cases since the start of August, with 40 of those coming in just 12 days between August 6 and 18.
One reason for confusion, and the claims of a surge in Kerry, may come from how case figures are tallied, announced and presented in the daily NPHET briefings and data sets.
Under the current system, cases are usually announced one day and included in the officially released figures the following day. For example, last week saw one Kerry case announced on Sunday with that case then included in the Monday, August 17, figures.
There is a concern that this method is leading to confusion over the actual day-to-day increases seen in the county.