Coronavirus: Ten more die amid warning Ireland ‘only at beginning of the curve’

Record daily number of new confirmed cases with clusters of infection in health system

At 8pm on Thursday, people across Ireland gathered in streets and on balconies against a backdrop of beeping car horns and song to applaud its healthcare workers. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

Ten more patients with Covid-19 died on Thursday, by far the highest daily death toll so far in the outbreak.

There was also a record daily number of new confirmed cases, at 255, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). There have now been a total of 1,819 cases of coronavirus in the Republic, and 19 deaths.

The extent to which the virus is circulating in the health system was revealed in new figures that show nine clusters of infection occurring among vulnerable patients in nursing homes, eight in hospitals and two in long-stay residential accommodation.

NPHET officials said the health service was running low on some protective equipment, particularly goggles.

“Based on the information we have, we believe we have enough to bridge us through to the delivery from China next week,” HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry told a media briefing on Thursday night.

The new deaths occurred among three women and seven men. Nine were from the east of the country and one from the south. Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said most died in institutional settings such as hospitals or nursing homes.

Doctors Aoife Page, Luke Hughes, Rachel Kearns, Hilary Coyle, Deirdre Ryan and Eva Tallon arrive back in Dublin Airport from Perth, Australia to help with the Covid-19 healthcare effort. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell for The Irish Times
Doctors Aoife Page, Luke Hughes, Rachel Kearns, Hilary Coyle, Deirdre Ryan and Eva Tallon arrive back in Dublin Airport from Perth, Australia to help with the Covid-19 healthcare effort. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell for The Irish Times

The average age of those who died is 79, according to an age breakdown provided by NPHET for the first time. Some 68 per cent were male and 32 per cent were female.

The news came as legislation giving the Government a further raft of emergency powers passed all stages in the Dáil after a lengthy late-night debate.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill includes a rent freeze for tenants as well as a freeze on evictions and a pause in any notice to quit already issued.

Income support

The Bill includes the approximately €3.7 billion temporary income support scheme package that runs for 12 weeks and will be operated by Revenue, where the Government will contribute to wage costs with a weekly subsidy to be passed on to employees. And it enhances social welfare for those made temporarily redundant from €203 to €350.

It also provides for a simplified registration process for retired health professionals and will allow for the re-enlistment of former members of the Permanent Defence Forces.

Dr Holohan said Ireland was “only at the beginning of the curve” and the number of deaths was small in relative terms.

The continuing increase in patients admitted to ICU and in community transmission was an ongoing concern because of the vulnerability of those affected, Dr Holohan said. However, the number of new cases was not rising as fast as expected and this gave some encouragement.

The NPHET is due to meet again on Friday to discuss further measures that could be taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Three more people in Northern Ireland died due to coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities in the North so far to 10. There were 32 new Covid-19 cases in the North, giving a total of confirmed cases of 241.

One in three people are fearful for their jobs and two in three are concerned about the economy as the coronavirus crisis deepens, new research for the Department of Health shows. It also found one-third of people are concerned about their personal health, and 77 per cent are concerned about the health of their family and friends.

Recession

It comes as the Economic and Social Research Institute on Thursday warned the economy will slide into recession this year as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis.

The contraction could be as much as 7.1 per cent in 2020, the economic think tank indicated, based on assumptions the shutdown measures stay in place for 12 weeks and the economy recovers afterwards.

In its latest quarterly assessment, the institute said the Covid-19 pandemic is the most significant hazard the economy has faced since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. The institute estimates that up to 350,000 people will lose their jobs, or one-sixth of the working population.

Elsewhere, Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed student nurses will be paid for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. All student nurses and midwives will be offered a contract as a healthcare assistant and be paid accordingly – up to €28,000 a year.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed on Thursday night that the US has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world, surpassing China and Italy at over 81,000.

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