Coronavirus: 69 new cases confirmed in State as total rises to 292

Number of deaths related to outbreak in Ireland remains at two

A further 69 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the State, bringing the total number to 292. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

A further 69 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the State, bringing the total number to 292. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

 

A further 69 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the State, bringing the total number to 292.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said on Tuesday that the latest Covid-19 cases involved 29 males and 40 females. Of these, 48 were in the east of the State, 13 were in south, five were in the northwest and three were in the west.

The number of deaths associated with the pandemic in Ireland remains at two.

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

Health officials met on Tuesday to discuss the approach to the outbreak to date with medical colleagues from across the health service.

“Cooperation across the health service has never been more important and I would like to thank our colleagues in their ongoing efforts to help us to prepare for and limit the spread of Covid-19,” chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said.

Ten new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in Northern Ireland, according to figures released by the North’s Department of Health (DoH) on Tuesday. There are now a total of 62 confirmed cases in Northern Ireland.

The number of tests carried out now stands at 1,338, though patients with mild symptoms who are at home are not being tested and therefore are not included in the testing totals, the department said.

The advice for anyone with mild symptoms - a new, persistent cough and/or fever - is to stay at home and self-isolate for seven days,

GP charges

Meanwhile, patients who phone GPs for advice on coronavirus will no longer be charged for their consultations under arrangements agreed with the Department of Health. Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) president Padraig McGarry said the measures would “take the burden off patients.”

“We have been inundated with requests for tests, and certainly the Minister (for Health Simon Harris) has put in place supports to allow us to continue and give us financial support to not charge patients for the advice that we give on the phone,” he said. “And I think that will certainly take the burden off patients and in this regard.”

Mr McGarry said this applied to consultations in relation to Covid-19 testing.

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Mr Harris said a massive number of tests will be carried out in the coming days and weeks and that the intention was to have 30 testing centres open.

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

He also said coronavirus will eventually become so prevalent that testing may stop in many countries but “we are nowhere near that point”.

The Minister said this was “a very different St Patrick’s Day for Irish people, pubs and bars and parades have closed, and at a time when we usually like to come together to celebrate our country we’re asking people to stay apart.

“That is something that’s very hard for us to do on a human level because we’re social creatures. But still I think our national day is also the day where we should remember what’s good about our country, and Ireland is always known for being resilient.”

Biggest concern

He said the biggest concern was that some people might think the virus is something that will not affect them.

The HSE is launching a recruitment drive and Mr Harris said every graduate who wants one will now be offered an internship. He said it is a “call for Ireland” and said it was “all hands on deck.”

Meanwhile, the GAA’s director of communications has said Croke Park may not be the only of the organisation’s venues to be used by the HSE to provide coronavirus testing facilities.

Alan Milton told RTÉ’s News at One that cars carrying people coming for testing would arrive at Croke Park via Sackville Avenue in Ballybough.

He said people would be processed in the outer Cusack Stand car park before driving through a service tunnel where tests will be carried out before cars departed via St Joseph’s Avenue.

Mr Milton said that at no stage would people coming for tests leave their cars and that the GAA had discussed the plan with residents living near the stadium in an effort to provide reassurances. He said it would operate in a similar manner to a National Care Test (NCT) site.

“This is not a walk up facility. It is by appointment only. It has to be this way.”

He said Croke Park’s lay out lends itself to such an operation and the stadium’s operations staff had been working “very methodically” with the HSE to streamline the service.

“This is an unusual ask of the stadium, but we were glad to do so. Overall the feedback from the community has been very positive in nature. We value our community relations and most are buying into the greater good.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has called for the Medical Council, the Department of Health and the HSE to set out an explicit statement regarding the “real professional and ethical challenges” faced by doctors on foot of the outbreak.

The college said it fully understood the concerns of some surgeons about the risks associated with working outside their own speciality during the crisis.

“ Surgeons are well trained and competent in the emergency management of ill patients but, in meeting urgent patient needs, some surgeons may have to work outside their regular area of practice,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “Training on the job, inter-professional support, protocols of care and supervision will be important in ensuring that the ‘core competence’ of all practitioners can be used safely while they work in an extended role.”

Curtailed

The RCSI warned that scheduled surgical care and outpatient clinics would inevitably be curtailed for an indefinite period during the pandemic “and we cannot overestimate the impact this will have on our patients”.

“Surgeons must engage with patients and the wider health care community to ensure patients are kept informed and supported. We must also work to ensure that, when the situation allows, affected patients have their surgery.”

Separately, the Irish Cancer Society has said the postponement of planned cancer operations would cause anxiety among patients.

Its chief executive Averil Power said clear communications on this issue was essential.

“The HSE has assured us that only non-urgent cancer surgeries are being postponed and that decisions are being made on a case by case basis by patients’ doctors,” she said.

“Postponement of non-urgent care is to be expected during this unprecedented public health crisis. However, it will cause a lot of anxiety for patients.”

“Patients need individual reassurance that the delayed treatment is not urgent and that their survival and quality of life will not be affected. It is also essential they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns with their care team.”