Coronavirus: No new Covid-19 deaths reported in State for first time since March

Leo Varadkar: ‘Significant milestone today... This is a day of hope. We will prevail’

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan says that the reporting of no new deaths due to Covid-19 on May 25th is "'consistent with the overall pattern of reduction." Video: RTÉ

 

There were no new reported deaths from Covid-19 on Monday for the first day since March 21st - a development that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described as “a significant milestone.”

The Department of Health reported 59 new confirmed cases of the virus however bringing the total number of known cases of the disease to 24,698. The death toll stands at 1,606.

The State’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the declining number of new cases and reported deaths over the past week shows “we have suppressed Covid-19 as a country.”

Mr Varadkar tweeted: “This is a day of hope. We will prevail.”

However, Dr Holohan cautioned that no new deaths being reported might be down to the weekend and delays in the reporting of fatalities.

He warned against “anticipatory behaviour” from people moving ahead of advice and perceiving the risk of catching the virus to be lower.

In response to calls for the physical distancing guidance to be reduced from two metres to one, Dr Holohan said that the State’s National Public Health Emergency Team kept this “under constant review” but felt that two metres was “a reasonable compromise given where we are.”

The two-metre guidance was, like wearing face coverings, “not a magic thing on its own.”

“The measure of two metres does not mean that everything is safe outside of two metres and everything less than two metres is less safe - it is a risk,” he said.

There have been calls, privately from ministers at Cabinet, and publicly from opposition politicians for distancing to be reduced to allow more public, social and business activity.

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Dr Holohan said that public health officers were taking a “cautious, risk-based approach to re-establishing the economic and social activity” through the phased, staging of relaxations over the summer at intervals of three weeks in order to assess whether the changes lead to new infections.

The reopening “road map” was “not a rigid structure like a constitution that is either difficult to change or can’t be changed,” he said, but he warned of having to reintroduce restrictions.

“If we go too fast and have to go backwards, we think that will be a bigger challenge,” he said.

He pointed to a survey by polling company Amarach for the department that showed a majority of people, 56 per cent, felt that the relaxations were coming “at about the right pace.”

Asked whether Nphet was open to proposals from hairdressers and other sectors that might bring forward their opening, Dr Holohan said he did not want the process to be seen like sectors were “applying for planning permission.” They should “internalise” public health advice, he said.

Dr Holohan was asked about a video of the Taoiseach that appeared on social media over the weekend showing Mr Varadkar with friends socialising in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

He referred to this month’s first wave of relaxations that allow people of up to four persons not from the same household meeting outdoors while maintaining strict social distancing.

“I didn’t see any pictures that are in violation of that involving the Taoiseach,” he said.

Nphet would meet again on Thursday to decide on preparations for moving to make recommendations for the second phase of relaxations, earmarked for June 8th, he said.

Dr Holohan said Nphet would be assessing hospitalisation rates, ICU admissions and new case numbers into early next week to decide whether to ease restrictions as planned. Even if there was an increase in new cases, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that things are not working,” he said.

“One of the things that is going to happen as we ease restrictions, as we increase the amount of economic and social activity, we are going to have more clusters of this,” he said.

“We are going to have outbreaks, for example, in workplace settings or maybe in time a school setting or a club. We have to be in a position to identify that and take action.”

Meanwhile latest figures from the North’s Department of Health yesterday confirmed eight more people have died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland bringing the total number of fatalities to 514.

The department also reported on Monday afternoon that 39 more people had tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of confirmed cases in the North to 4,609.

So far 46,842 people have been tested for the virus in Northern Ireland.

The deaths overwhelmingly are in the 60-plus age group - 343 of the deaths were in the group aged 80 and over; 148 in the 60-79 age group; 21 in the 40-59 group; and one in the 20-39 group.

The Belfast City Council area had the highest number of deaths at 158 while the 10 in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area was the lowest number.

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