The deaths of another 25 patients – 14 males and 11 females – diagnosed with Covid-19 have been reported on Friday by the National Public Health Emergency Team.
Some 23 of the deaths were in the east and two were in the west. Some 16 of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions. There have now been 288 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic. The median age of today’s deaths is 85.
The National Public Health Emergency Team also reported 480 new confirmed cases on Friday. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 7,054.
Of the 251 patients admitted to intensive care, 157 remain there while 62 have been discharged and 31 have died. Some 203 of these patients had an underlying condition. The median age of patients in intensive care is 61.
There have been 135 clusters of Covid-19 in nursing homes and in affected homes, one in five staff, and one in six residents, have tested positive, he said.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the public health emergency team is concerned about the rate of infection in nursing homes, though there are still many without any clusters and similar patterns had been observed in other European countries.
An analysis of all cases up to last Wednesday shows 45 per cent were men and 55 per cent women. The average age is 48 years.
Of the 7,071 cases reported, 1,631 had been hospitalised, or 23 per cent. Of those hospitalised, 244 had been admitted to intensive care.
Cases among healthcare workers now number 1,949.
Dr Holohan said the range of ages of people who have died with Covid-19 varies from 32 years to 105.
Of the 288 deaths, 207 occurred in hospitals, 242 had underlying health conditions and 175 were men.
In addition to the 7,071 cases diagnosed in Ireland, a further 1,035 tested positive in a lab in Germany where they were processed, giving a total of 8,089. Dr Holohan stressed these cases were “historical”, dating back several weeks, and had no impact on the growth rate of the disease over this period.
Asked how many people are waiting to be tested, Dr Holohan replied that anyone who fits the criteria for testing can now be tested rapidly, “within a short period of time”.
He said he did not believe anyone was waiting for a test to be carried out though there had been delays in processing tests. Efforts are now being made to expand the capacity of the testing system so that results could be provided on a next-day basis, he added.
More than 63,000 tests have been processed, he said, including 14-16,000 carried out in Germany.
Earlier on Friday The Government announced that restrictions due to expire on Sunday are to be extended until May 5th, another three weeks.
The recommendation to extend the controls was made by the public health emergency team and accepted by the Government.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said because the vast majority of people have complied with the restrictions the spread of coronavirus has been interrupted. However, while the spread had been slowed significantly it has not been stopped.
Too many people have died and more will have died “before it’s all over”, the Taoiseach told a briefing in Government Buildings, Dublin, on Friday.
He said people could not afford to become complacent or lose focus and “we need to persevere” and to maintain our discipline and resolve.
The Government was planning for a return to normality, he said, but for now we have to “take one day at a time”.
Mr Varadkar said he hoped that after the three-week period the curtailment of social and commercial activity could be unwound but added that he could not guarantee this. Whether this happens will depend on how people respond to the restrictions and the behaviours required.
“They won’t be eased in one go. It will have to be done bit by bit,” said Mr Varadkar. The controls might also have to be reimposed if the virus “rises again”.
Mr Varadkar acknowledged many people were feeling frustrated and captive under the regulations and and that the fine weather makes things more difficult.
Ireland would be watching how other countries such as Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic got on in easing their restrictions in the coming weeks, he said.
“This is not an experiment we’re willing to take” at this point, he said.
However, every personal sacrifice was helping to save life and to ensure the health service is not overwhelmed, he added.
These sacrifices have made a difference, he said, thanking the public for its “forbearance”.
What might be an inconvenience for some could be a “lifesaver” for others.
Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed the extra powers given to gardaí to enforce the restrictions will be extended for three weeks before Sunday, when they were due to expire.
But the Taoiseach added it is not the Government's intention to "turn Ireland into a police State" at any point. With the vast majority of people co-operating with the controls, he added: "The Garda Síochána have extensive powers, but let's not use them. Let's all do the right thing."
Mr Harris said the actions of public had made a “real and meaningful” difference. The number of contacts of confirmed cases had been cut from 20 to two, the daily growth rate of infection has been cut from 33 per cent to under 10 per cent and the number of people infected by each case was down from over four to about one.
“You are flattening the curve. You are protecting front-line health workers. You are saving so many lives.”
“Hard days for a bit longer are so worth it for better days ahead,” he concluded.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the aim would be to have a testing regime in place by the end of the three-week period that would provide same-day or next-day results so the virus could be properly tracked.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that schools would remain closed “until further notice”. The Junior Certificate examinations are cancelled but the Leaving Certificate exams will be rescheduled until late July or August, depending on public health advice and talks with the teaching unions.
Also on Friday Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government may need limited access to the new European Union Covid-19 rescue package to help fund the wage-subsidy scheme and support companies in difficulty.
Mr Donohoe said he is confident the country can create “a new economy” and services to recover but he cautioned, “we have a journey ahead of us.”
The new welfare supports will be monitored and may need to be strengthened to aid the recovery as 200,000 workers access the wage subsidy scheme. “If they need to be changed we will do so.”
Mr Donohoe said the deal reached with EU finance ministers on Thursday night has three different elements.
The first is to make loans available to countries in major difficulty to help their healthcare ability to respond to Covid-19; second, there is a company plan – to use European Investment Bank to make money available to companies at low interest rates to respond to Covid-19; and a third plan for workers to help companies pay for wage subsidy schemes.
What about the courts?
Also on Friday Liz Canavan from the Department of the Taoiseach said the Court Services is piloting technology that will allow full court hearings to be held remotely once the new legal term begins after Easter.
At the daily briefing from the Government press centre, it was disclosed that until now remote hearings using video links have been used for the most urgent cases.
Some 570 employers have not disclosed their bank details to Revenue, the briefing also heard resulting in employees missing out on €2.19 million in top-up payments.
Ms Canavan said this has been an issue with a minority of employers since the beginning who have not yet registered with the Revenue On-Line Service.
Ms Canavan reiterated the Government message to ask people to stay at home this Easter and not to take “unnecessary journeys” to holiday homes.