Coronavirus: Five more deaths brings toll in State to 1,695

NPHET to meet on Thursday to review the WHO’s updated advice on face coverings

Another five people with Covid-19 have died in the State, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the disease to 1,695, according to figures released on Wednesday evening by the Department of Health.

Another 19 cases have also been confirmed, meaning that a total of 25,231 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the pandemic arrived here, the department said.

There are currently 102 cases of Covid-19 in hospital, of which 29 are in intensive care.

Of the cases recorded up to last Monday, 57 per cent are male and 43 per cent female. The median age is 48 years, and a total of 8,099 involved healthcare workers.

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The National Public Health Emergency Team is due to meet on Thursday to review progress in the pandemic, and to review the World Health Organisation’s updated advice on face coverings.

The meeting will consider “communications regarding appropriate use of face coverings in community settings,” according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

Some 92 per cent of patients diagnosed with the virus have recovered, officials said.

“While it is very welcome that the vast majority of people who contracted Covid-19 have recovered from the acute phase of their illness, there are many who continue to experience longer term effects including fatigue and decreased exercise capacity,” deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cautioned that the plan to reopen the economy was contingent on the virus being kept under control.

“There is always the risk that it might make a comeback… It is possible that the worst is over, but it’s not over yet,” he said.

In an interview on RTÉ’s 2fm, Mr Varadkar also said hairdressers could be allowed to reopen earlier than previously planned and he described as “too slow” the Government’s initial five phase roadmap to reopen the country from the coronavirus lockdown by August.

Last Friday it was announced the roadmap would be shortened from five phases to four, with several parts of the plan brought forward and some services permitted to reopen this week.

“We’re now working on revising phases four and five, so that we can have the country almost fully opened by the middle of July instead of the middle of August,” Mr Varadkar said.

“So the kind of things we are looking at is bringing forward the reopening of hairdressers and the salons, and a couple of the things like that.”

Work on amalgamating the latter half of the plan would be completed this week, he added.

Hairdressers and beauty salons were due to reopen on July 20th as part of the initial five-phase plan, with groups in the sector calling for outlets to be allowed to resume business earlier.

Hospital beds

Figures on Tuesday from the Health Service Executive (HSE) showed several hospitals were running out of bed capacity in both general and intensive care wards as the lockdown was eased.

A total of 489 vacant general beds were available in hospitals across the State on Tuesday along with 114 critical care beds.

Three hospitals - Kilkenny, Limerick and the Children's Hospital in Tallaght, Dublin - had no general beds available, while South Tipperary and Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway had one bed each. Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown in Dublin, Letterkenny in Co Donegal and Cavan each had two beds available. In total, 15 hospitals - a third of them in Dublin - had 10 or fewer general beds available.

There was a also a shortage in critical care beds with none available on Tuesday in the Mater and St Vincent's hospitals in Dublin, in Mayo, Kilkenny or the Mercy Hospital, Cork, and only one critical care bed available in seven other hospitals. Only St James's Hospital, Dublin had more than 10 free critical care beds, with a total of 25 available there on Tuesday.

The figures show the beds, both in general and critical care wards are not for the most part being occupied by coronavirus patients.

A total of 21 hospitals had no Covid-19 patients in their intensive care beds.

The largest number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units were in Dublin hospitals. The Mater had the highest number at seven, St James’s and Beaumont both had six critical care patients and Tallaght had four.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times