Irish COVID-19 death rate at pandemic high

Sign encouraging people to wear face coverings amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Belfast
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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's COVID-19 death rate is at its highest level since the start of the pandemic with an average of 44 deaths per day in the past week, a senior health official said on Thursday.

"The number of deaths confirmed per day over the last seven days, 44, is the highest we have seen at any point during the pandemic," Philip Nolan, head of the government's COVID-19 modelling unit, told a news conference.

The infection rate, however, has fallen sharply from a pandemic high registered earlier in January. There were an average of 2,430 new cases over the past five days, down from a five-day average of 4,473 reported a week ago.

The January spike followed an easing of public health restrictions in December.

The growth was also fuelled by a new more transmissible variant of the virus that first emerged in Britain. The variant now accounts for around 60% of transmission in Ireland, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan told journalists.

Ireland on Thursday reported 2,608 new cases of COVID-19 and 51 deaths. A total of 2,818 have died from the disease in Ireland. Ireland on Tuesday reported a record 93 deaths.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Susan Fenton)