The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 in the county currently stands at 188.3. The situation in north Wexford is of particular concern.
In statistics released yesterday by the Department of Health showing the rate of new infections by Local Electoral Area (LEA), the Gorey area is fifth in the country with a 14-day incidence rate of 533.8.
Mr Byrne told BreakingNews.ie: “Wexford had a very low rate of incidence of Covid-19 for the last six months, it was clear people were doing the right thing. The fact that cases have spiked, particularly in north Wexford, to some very high levels, that shows precisely how contagious and dangerous this disease is. We have to get back to the fundamental basics. The vast majority of people are doing the right things the vast majority of the time. It just shows whenever we let our guard down then this disease can spread. It’s going to be difficult.”
He added: “It’s welcome that the HSE moved quickly to open up an additional Covid testing centre in Ferns to meet the concerns in north Wexford. They’re also moving to increase capacity at the Wexford test centre where they’re going to go from two lanes to four lanes to try to do even more tests, and faster.
“This is a case of us all pulling together, we will overcome this but I think we’ve also got to send a message of hope out there for the north Wexford community today, no different to communities around the country, we’re facing a challenge but we’ve got to have hope and we are going to rebuild.”
Mr Byrne is from Gorey and he said the high incidence rate in the area was a worry for locals.
“It is a concern, two of our local county councillors have tested positive. I obviously wish them well and all of those who have tested positive. It went from very few cases in the last six months to rocketing to among the highest incidences anywhere in the country so that is concerning, it’s worrying for people who are vulnerable and their families. It’s also worrying for people who are losing their jobs or businesses who are struggling because this is impacting on the community as a whole,” he said. “We’ve just got to work together, take personal responsibility and we will overcome this.”
On reports of the outbreaks following GAA games in the country, Mr Byrne said it was not helpful to play the “blame game”. He said he understood people’s frustration at not being able to gather, but warned that it is more important now than ever to take personal responsibility and adhere to Government guidelines.
“I know it’s frustrating, I know that people want to celebrate after a game, I get it and I know how frustrating it is. People do want to let loose but with the nature of this disease we can’t do that, we shouldn’t get into the blame game. This is about ensuring that we re-emphasise those messages, keep your distance, wash your hands, wear your masks and wear them properly and get tested. What’s happened in north Wexford in the last few days is very clearly a warning shot, showing that if you let down your guard this is when trouble arises.”
Mr Byrne added that keeping schools open remained a key issue.
“Every decision must be made on public health advice, it can’t be made on the basis of armchair epidemiologists who are on social media. It has to be based on solid public health advice. The Government’s top priority has been to keep schools open, all of the evidence suggests there are very low rates of transmission in schools and that evidence continues to come through.
“It’s important for children to be able to have access to education. There are long term impacts on a child if they don’t have access to a school environment so I think we have to do everything we possibly can to ensure that our schools stay open and that they can open in a safe manner.”
While the situation in Wexford is worrying, he welcomed the news of a third secondary school for the Gorey area. There’s huge demand for places with two of the country’s biggest schools, Gorey Community school and Creagh College, already at capacity.
He said this was good news for north Wexford.
Delighted that Minister for Education @NormaFoleyTD1 has announced the decision to proceed with a much needed new second level school for #Gorey . This will be a third excellent school alongside @creaghcollege and @goreycommsch . @Love_Gorey @GoreyGuardian pic.twitter.com/MGqp0jxkDv
— Malcolm Byrne (@malcolmbyrne) October 16, 2020
“I’ve been dealing with officials from the department on this almost every week, it’s been a long-running problem. At a time when we have all this worry in north Wexford it’s a good news story, this is a much-needed school and hopefully it will be seen as a bit of good news. I’m really grateful to Norma Foley for her help on this.”