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Claremorris Covid concerns

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Claremorris Electoral Area third-highest Covid rate in country

Edwin McGreal

The wider Claremorris area has become an epicentre of Covid-19 cases in Ireland. The Mayo town was in the news in recent days over Covid cases in one of its schools, and Claremorris Electoral Area now has the third-highest Covid incidence rate in the country. Only Carndonagh and Letterkenny Electoral Areas in Donegal have a higher incidence of Covid-19 per head of population.
In the two-week period to December 7, there were a total of 70 cases of Covid-19 in the Claremorris Electoral Area, giving a Local Electoral Area rate per 100,000 of 257.9. The nationwide average is only 80.2.
It is the highest rate per electoral area in Mayo by far. Castlebar, with 16 cases, has a rate of 53.3. Swinford, with six cases, has a rate of 34.7. There are less than five cases in each of the electoral areas of Ballina, Belmullet and Westport. When cases are less than five in an electoral area, the precise number is not given for data protection reasons and, therefore, no incidence rate per 100,000 can be established.
However, while over a dozen cases have been linked to Claremorris Boys NS, it is unclear where else in Claremorris Electoral Area there may be individual cases and outbreaks. Geographically, more precise breakdowns of cases were given earlier this year, but electoral area is now the most precise detail given. Indeed, the specific cases at Claremorris BNS only came to light after the school made national headlines last week.
The Board of Management at the school decided to close early for the Christmas holidays due to concerns over case numbers in the school. However on Friday, the Department of Education ordered them to reopen yesterday (Monday). Just seven pupils attended out of the 125-strong student body at the school.
Speculation
The Claremorris Electoral Area is large, stretching from Shrule in the south to near Kilkelly in the north and over to Ballyhaunis in the east.
Jimmy Flynn, a pharmacist in Claremorris and a prominent member of Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, says there is uncertainty locally and, as a consequence, speculation.
“In the broader community there is a certain amount of concern that the numbers are rising,” he told The Mayo News. “We’re not quite sure where they are coming from. There is a substantial number of people in the electoral area.
“We’ve two meat plants eleven miles away in Ballyhaunis and they have been a source of outbreaks before. We’re not sure whether that’s the origin of this current outbreak. We really don’t know where the source is coming from.
“We know that we’re a town eleven miles from those meat plants. There are workers who commute from the area here to work in those meat plants. It’s speculation only that it may be originating there, but we’re just not certain where the problem lies,” he said.

Locals surprised
Mr Flynn said that he has noticed ‘high levels of compliance’ in recent weeks in the town of Claremorris and that the outbreak associated with the school came as a shock to locals.
“We’re surprised really that we have an outbreak in the town because there seems to be a very high level of compliance. Any of the businesses that have reopened are strictly following all the protocols. Any of the gastropubs or cafés that opened recently are really, really strict in how they conduct their businesses.
“The compliance with mask wearing among the general population is very, very high.”
He added that while the figures were high, they should be taken in context with the national picture, which has seen a considerable fall in numbers in recent weeks.
He also said that businesses in the town continue to take all efforts needed to provide a ‘safe environment’.
“As a business community, it is business as usual. There’s a very high level of compliance. We’ve been through a very rough year. It is a time of year where retail makes its money, in that last quarter of the year. We would encourage everyone to shop local and support us. We’re really glad of the support we’ve gotten from the community right through the year.
“Providing a safe environment has been paramount to everyone that’s trading here in this town. Public health has been their number one priority, and compliance is very high, so people should feel safe to shop and use the gastropubs, shops and other businesses in the town and the area,” he said.