Republic’s Coronavirus death toll rises by 28 as confirmed cases up by 500

‘Work to be done on testing,’ says FF leader Micheál Martin as over 50,000 waiting

Nurse Jackie Kayes who tends to Covid-19 patients in Northern Ireland where four more deaths occurred today. Photograph: Reuters

Nurse Jackie Kayes who tends to Covid-19 patients in Northern Ireland where four more deaths occurred today. Photograph: Reuters

 

Twenty-eight more people have died from the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the State increased by 500, the highest increase in a single day to date.

Fifteen of the patients who died were female, and 13 were male, with a median age of 84, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team. Nineteen of the patients had an underlying health condition. Some 22 of the deaths were located in the east, two in northwest, two in the south and two in the west.

This brings the number of deaths from the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, to 263 in the Republic.

The number of known cases has increased from 6,074 to 6,574.

Analysis by the Health Surveillance Protection Centre of 6,444 cases as of Tuesday shows the median age of known cases is 48.

Modelling data used by the public health emergency team shows the daily growth rate has reduced from 33 per cent in the early stages of the outbreak down to 9 per cent this week.

Fianna Fáil reaction

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that more than 50,000 people are waiting to be tested.

He was speaking after a Government briefing for party leaders on the Covid-19 crisis.

“The areas of most concern that were articulated were the ongoing issues around PPE [personal protection equipment], the situation in relation to nursing homes and the entire situation on testing.”

He said that in terms of testing, “around 53,000 tests have been completed to date. There were 51,000 people awaiting appointments for swab-taking and it seems to me that there is still a degree of work to be done on the testing front. What was identified to us was a lab-capacity issue. So, suffice to say, the country is not where it would want to be in terms of the volume of testing and the turnaround of testing.”

Mr Martin said further updates on modelling of predicted cases are due to be presented.

As the Easter bank holiday approaches Cross-Border travel will be monitored by gardaí and PSNI officers to ensure people are adhering to coronavirus restrictions.

The measure, one of several in place over Easter, comes amid warnings that the weekend could be “Ireland’s Cheltenham” in terms of Covid-19 contagion.

Infectious disease expert Dr Paddy Mallon said the Irish Government acted at the right time, unlike in the United Kingdom where an event such as Cheltenham was allowed proceed. Consequently, there are now “tens of thousands” of cases.

It was “one of the seminal” events that led to wider spread of the virus in the UK, Dr Mallon told Newstalk Breakfast.

The weekend could be “Ireland’s Cheltenham” if people in the east of the country (where there are more cases) “decide to take off”, he warned.

New powers

Dr Mallon’s warning comes as the number of people who have died from the virus in Northern Ireland has risen by four to 82, according to the latest figures from the North’s Public Health Agency, released on Thursday afternoon.

The agency also said there were 138 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number in the North to 1,477. A total of 10,203 people have been tested for the virus.

In the Republic gardaí have been given new powers to enforce rules designed to keep as many people at home as possible. Local authorities countrywide have also announced that beach car parks will be closed over the weekend. County councils including Cork, Wexford, Mayo and Clare have published details of closures on social media.

At the Government’s morning Covid-19 briefing, assistant secretary general in the Department of Taoiseach Liz Canavan said “points of contact have been established to monitor cross-Border travel and . . . gardaí will follow their usual approach to engage, educate, encourage and enforce as a last resort”.

The restrictions introduced by the Government two weeks ago are likely to be extended for several weeks beyond their Easter deadline.

Minister for Health Simon Harris told Virgin Media he expects to be advised on Good Friday to keep the restrictions in place for a period of weeks, but that Ireland will have to move on to a “different terrain” after that.

“What’s highly likely tomorrow is that the National Public Health Emergency Team will recommend that we continue with the very strict restrictions. I expect that to be a period of weeks,” he said.

Medics have raised concerns about a possible surge later this month if the public do not adhere to social-distancing requirements over the weekend.

Public complacency

Fears of rising public complacency about the virus were echoed by gardaí who are monitoring more than 1,000 locations in the State including forest walks and beaches.

Garda Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said officers had noticed people are beginning to tire of the social-distancing regulations.

On Tuesday night Mr Harris signed regulations granting powers of enforcement to gardaí. The powers were passed by the Oireachtas in late March but became active only with the Minister’s signature.

The regulations are based on the guidelines issued by the Government two weeks ago. Anyone exercising more than 2km from their home or with people from outside their household will be in breach. Anyone travelling beyond 2km for non-essential reasons will also be in breach.

An offence will be committed only if a person refuses a direction from a garda to comply with the regulations. It is not the breaching of regulations that is illegal, but disobeying the garda’s instructions once caught.

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