Coronavirus: 13 more deaths in Republic with 402 new cases confirmed

Varadkar says plan is for Leaving and Junior Cert exams to go ahead

Another 13 patients diagnosed with coronavirus have died and a further 402 new cases have been confirmed. Video: RTÉ

 

The number of people who have now died from coronavirus in Ireland has almost reached the 100 mark.

At a briefing the National Public Health Emergency Team on Thursday evening said 13 new fatalities now bring the total to 98.

A further 402 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland as of lunchtime on Thursday bring the total figure to 3,849.

Of the most recent deaths, nine were located in the east of the country, one in the south and three in the west. There were nine men and four women with a median age of 82 – 10 had underlying conditions.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said we are not yet on course to avoid a potential situation in which the number of people requiring intensive care outstrips available beds.

“If we keep growing at the rate we are growing we won’t avoid that scenario so we need to keep improving,” he said.

The latest figures for the Republic came as more than a million cases of coronavirus were registered globally, according to research by Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths worldwide passed 51,000 on Thursday night, with Europe accounting for over half of cases and more than 70 per cent of deaths linked to the virus.

Main points

Meanwhile Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a decision will be made towards the end of next week on whether or not to relax the current restrictions imposed on the public to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Varadkar has also warned that the economic picture is “very bad” and that Ireland is facing into a recession.

“We are facing a public health emergency which in turn is leading to an economic recession.”

He also signalled that taxes could be cut to stimulate the economy but that Ireland needs to have the capacity to borrow at rates that are affordable, and the Government will not know if this is possible until the full picture emerges.

While there has been progress in flattening the curve of cases, Mr Varadkar said there was a “slight uptick” in the rate of increase of new cases today but cautioned against reading into one single day.

The Taoiseach said he was satisfied with the current capacity of the health service to deal with the health emergency.

On State exams, he said the plan is that they will go ahead and said that the Government wanted to see students start in college as they had planned.

Furthermore, he acknowledged that there is pressure on the testing services for Covid 19 and said that “we are not where we want to be”. He has asked the HSE to provide him with a report by next Monday containing a roadmap on how to increase testing and address any issues.

Surge of cases

Earlier on Thursday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that health authorities are still expecting a surge of cases to hit hospitals in the coming days and weeks.

Mr Coveney told a press briefing that the Government does not yet know if the greatly increased capacity in the hospital system will be sufficient to deal with it.

He said that huge efforts had been made to “effectively double” bed capacity in the health system to create space in the hospital system to create space for patients “if we see a dramatic increase in the number of people that need hospital care – as we expect we will.”

“We don’t know yet whether it’s going to be enough. But what we can say is the more discipline the public shows in terms of complying with the restrictions . . . then the higher the likelihood that our system is going to be able to deal with the peak of this crisis when it happens,” he said.

Táanaiste Simon Coveney speaking in Government Buildings on Thursday. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA
Táanaiste Simon Coveney speaking in Government Buildings on Thursday. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA

But Mr Coveney also warned that the current restrictions may be extended beyond Easter Sunday.

“I think people do need to realise that these restrictions may go on for some time and it’s wrong to put a timeline on it,” he said.

“We’ve set an initial period but I think it may well be that we will need to go beyond that initial deadline. But again that will be a decision taken with the best public health advice that we can get.”

He said there were good signs that the spread of the virus had been limited by the measures introduced in recent weeks.

“We have certainly see the spread of this virus staying below what the expectation might have been a few days ago and certainly a few weeks ago. But we would be wrong to be complacent because we have seen in other countries how quickly the spread can accelerate,” he said.

Nursing home

Meanwhile the Dáil has been told almost 100 staff members and residents in one nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for health Stephen Donnelly said the nursing home has 200 staff, 70 of whom have tested positive for Covid-19. He said of the 100 residents, 19 have tested positive and four have died.

Furthermore, members of the cleaning staff and kitchen staff are now absent, Mr Donnelly said, adding there were difficulties in securing agency staff.

“The situation is very, very serious. The nursing homes can’t get the staff that they need. They can’t get their hands on personal protective equipment either. They are getting very, very small amounts and it is not enough. Now I know the HSE is trying to deploy its own staff to try and plug some of these gaps but much more is needed.”

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