Coronavirus: 33 more people die from Covid-19 in the State with most new cases in a day

Minister says HSE expects to clear Covid-19 testing backlog by next week

During the  ‘Shine Your Light’ event to show support and solidarity with those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 . The Beresford Group, front and centre was Margaret Cunningham with neighbours (from left) Elizabeth and Kevin Dalton, Terry and Anne Crosbie, Carol and Ciara Byrne and Tara with Lily Kilkenny. Photograph Nick Bradshaw / The Irish Times

During the ‘Shine Your Light’ event to show support and solidarity with those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 . The Beresford Group, front and centre was Margaret Cunningham with neighbours (from left) Elizabeth and Kevin Dalton, Terry and Anne Crosbie, Carol and Ciara Byrne and Tara with Lily Kilkenny. Photograph Nick Bradshaw / The Irish Times

 

A further 33 people in the State have died as a result of Covid-19, while the highest number of new cases in one day, 553, were confirmed.

The total number of deaths now stands at 320, with 8,928 confirmed cases, according the Department of Health.

In Northern Ireland 15 more people have died, its highest daily toll, bringing the total there to 107. There are 128 new positive cases in the region, with a total of 1,717. On the island as a whole there have been 427 deaths and 10,645 positive test results.

According to the data published on Saturday by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, of the deaths here overnight 30 were in the east and three were in the west of the country.

They included 14 females and 19 males of whom the the median age was 82. A total of 25 had underlying health conditions .

Of Saturday’s new cases 553 were confirmed by Irish laboratories. A further 286 were confirmed by a laboratory in Germany. On Friday Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan had explained the cases confirmed in Germany were old cases done weeks ago rather than new ones occurring in the population today and it was important to separate the two figures.

“The HSE is now working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread,” the executive said in a statement.

Dr Holohan, said: “Today’s figure of 553 represents the largest number of new cases reported in a single day since the start of the outbreak.

“This should remind everyone of the importance of hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing. These are the actions to suppress this infection. We need to continue with them.”

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: “Earlier today a mental health and wellbeing initiative to support the mental health needs of the public through this pandemic was announced by Minister for HealthSimon Harris.

“It is very important that people know they are not alone during this time. This campaign will be about uniting all of us, staying connected and insuring we get through this together. More information is available at gov.ie/together.”

Looking in more detail at figures as of Thursday 9th April, when there were 7,787 cases, it is seen that 45 per cent are male and 54 per cent are female, with 356 clusters involving 1,626 cases. The median age of confirmed cases is 48 years.

In all 1,718 cases (22 per cent) have been hospitalised, and of these 253 cases have been admitted to intensive care.

Some 2,141 cases are among healthcare workers. Dublin has the highest number of cases at 4,156 (53 per cent of the total) followed by Cork with 581 cases (eight per cent).

Where the cause of transmission is known: community accounts for 66 per cent, close contact accounts for 26 per cent, and, travel abroad accounts for eight per cent.

Backlog

Earlier, Mrarris said the HSE expects to clear the backlog of coronavirus tests by next week. He said about 7,000 samples can now be tested per day with GPs currently referring about 2,000 people for tests daily.

About 25,000 samples have been sent to Germany for testing and 16,000 of those have now returned, he said, with the remainder expected back this week, by which point the backlog will be cleared.

The Minister said more tests may be sent to Germany in the future but that these would be processed much more quickly. Some testing centres lay idle this week because there was not enough demand for them, he said.

According to the most recent figures about 60,000 tests for coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19, have been completed to date.

Mr Harris said the Government’s goal is to increase testing to 15,000 or more a day and to be able to turn around a test within 48 hours.

Ireland is the sixth highest in the EU for testing, Mr Harris said. “We’re a leader, but we want to do more.”

He said the “next big challenge” will be to widen testing criteria so that, when restrictions are lifted, anyone with symptoms will be able to get a test quickly.

Restrictions

Details were also released of a letter the National Public Health Emergency Team sent Government on Friday recommending a three week extension to movement restrictions. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the extension, which will run until May 5th, on Friday.

The emergency team said the efforts of Irish people to contain the virus have had a “profound impact” on the trajectory of its spread and that there are “encouraging signs” of reduction. However, it said Ireland is at a “delicate and critical point” in terms of how to proceed.

“The Irish people have saved many lives and will save many more,” Mr Harris said. “But it would not take much to go backwards.”

Before considering lifting the current restrictions, the daily increase in new cases needs to come down below 5 per cent, the Minister said. It is currently just under 10 per cent, down from 30 per cent a few weeks ago.

He said he would also like to see a stable number of about 100 people being treated for the disease in intensive care units. The current figure is about 150.

The current figure for the number of people each infected person passes the virus onto is now at around one, down from more than four at the start of the crisis. Mr Harris said when it drops below one the virus will start to slowly die off.

Creep up

He said the Government has the benefit of watching how other countries who confirmed cases of the virus before Ireland are lifting restrictions. He said it may be a case that some restrictions will be lifted but then reimposed if infections rates start to creep up again.

The Government has also announced a new mental health initiative to support people struggling with the impact of the virus and the restrictions. A list of supports has been compiled on agovernment website and an extra €1 million has been allocated to the HSE for online counselling.

“People in our country are really, really hurting,” Mr Harris said. “We need people to know it’s ok not to feel ok”

He said a recent survey found seven out of 10 people are now consistently “very worried”, which is the level of worry someone feels when going through a highly stressful event such as losing their job.

Four out of five people are worried about their family and friends and about the same number are worried about the economy, he said.

Details were also released of a letter the National Public Health Emergency Team sent Government on Friday recommending a three week extension to movement restrictions. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the extension, which will run until May 5th, on Friday.

The emergency team said the efforts of Irish people to contain the virus have had a “profound impact” on the trajectory of its spread and that there are “encouraging signs” of reduction. However, it said Ireland is at a “delicate and critical point” in terms of how to proceed.

“The Irish people have saved many lives and will save many more,” Mr Harris said. “But it would not take much to go backwards.”

Before considering lifting the current restrictions, the daily increase in new cases needs to come down below 5 per cent, the Minister said. It is currently just under 10 per cent, down from 30 per cent a few weeks ago.

He said he would also like to see a stable number of about 100 people being treated for the disease in intensive care units. The current figure is about 150.

The current figure for the number of people each infected person passes the virus onto is now at around one, down from more than four at the start of the crisis. Mr Harris said when it drops below one the virus will start to slowly die off.

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