A total of 584 Covid-19 cases and 20 new deaths recorded by Nphet

Play dates ‘clearly’ a factor behind Covid-19 cases in children, says Paul Reid

A further 20 deaths of Covid-19 patients have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team. This brings to 4,651 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Of the new deaths, 11 occurred in March, three in February and six in January.

Those who died ranged in age from 57 to 91 years and the median age was 73.

Hospital Report

Nphet also reported 584 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 233,327 the total number of cases in the Republic.

Of the new cases, 222 were in Dublin, 44 in Kildare, 33 in Offaly, 31 in Meath and 29 in Westmeath, with the remaining 225 cases spread across 19 other counties.

The median age of cases is 34 years and 72 per cent are under 45.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 158 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Offaly has the highest county incidence, followed by Donegal. Monaghan has the lowest incidence.

On Friday morning, 317 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 67 were in ICU. There were 25 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

As of last Tuesday, 709,348 doses of vaccine had been administered: 515,800 people first doses and 193,548 second doses.

Earlier, the chief executive of the Health Service Executive (HSE) said play dates and house visits are driving increasing transmission of Covid-19 among children, rather than school attendance.

Paul Reid said play dates were "very clearly" one of the factors behind an increase in the number of cases among younger children.

Mr Reid reiterated that the data showed Covid-19 was “not transmitting highly within schools”. Where confirmed cases were identified, testing showed infections were not being passed on at high rates, he said.

Feedback from public health doctors was clear that visits between households was a significant issue behind the spread of the virus, he said.

“People might be doing something they feel is quite innocent, but [THE VIRUS] transmits really quickly, it grabs the opportunity to transmit,” said Mr Reid.

The number of cases among younger children has risen by 40-60 per cent since the start of February.

Health officials have consistently maintained the reopening of schools has not been a driver of increased transmissions.

Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling group, said the amount of testing of children had risen substantially in recent weeks.

There was a “much more complex set of interactions” behind the spike in infections among children than the fact schools had returned, he said on Thursday.

There are 308 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals as of 8pm on Thursday, according to the latest HSE operations report. Twenty-four patients with the virus had been admitted in the past day, it said.

Some 75 Covid-19 patients were being treated in intensive care units, with 53 of those on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Ministers have privately expressed concern over the marked increase in case numbers, as the Government prepares to decide on easing restrictions from April 5th.

Some Ministers did not discount the possibility of daily case numbers creeping close to the 1,000 mark in the coming days.

The Cabinet is to meet on Tuesday to decide on what restrictions may be eased. The 5km limit is expected to be lifted and some in Government think travel should then be allowed within county boundaries.