Coronavirus: Fourth death confirmed in Republic as cases rise to 906 amid social distancing warnings

Warnings over social distancing repeated as 121 new cases confirmed in the Republic

There are now about 40,000 people in Ireland waiting for a test for the coronavirus, the HSE said at a briefing on Sunday.

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A fourth person has died from Covid-19 and 121 new cases have been confirmed, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The patient who died, a male in the east of the country, had an underlying health condition, the HPSC said on Sunday evening.

Chief medical officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan extended his sympathies to the family and friends of the patient who died on Sunday.

With the additional 121 cases reported on Sunday, there are now a total of 906 confirmed cases of the disease in the Republic.

A second patient death from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland was confirmed on Sunday.

Main events in the coronavirus crisis on Sunday

The National Public Health Emergency team released a breakdown of data for the first 712 cases, as of Friday midnight. The average age of patients in the Republic was 44 and 30 per cent (211 cases) had been hospitalised. Seventeen needed admission to intensive care.

Dr Holohan said the cases confirmed on Sunday were most likely exposed to Covid-19 prior to the introduction of the public health measures implemented on Friday, March 13th which saw schools, colleges and crèches closed and many work places request their staff to work from home

“It is vital that everyone complies with the public health advice on hand and cough hygiene, working from home where possible and practising social distancing of 2 metres,” he said, on a day when there was evidence of many people visiting seaside towns or the mountains for a day out.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said people gathering in public areas was not adhering to social distancing.

Warnings over social distancing were repeated on Sunday after many people visited beaches, seaside towns and the mountains for a day out. Above, walkers on Dollymount beach in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Warnings over social distancing were repeated on Sunday after many people visited beaches, seaside towns and the mountains for a day out. Above, walkers on Dollymount beach in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

He said the National Health Emergency Team will examine in the coming days whether new restrictions are needed. He also thanked retailers and councils who had voluntarily closed their outlets and public attractions. On Sunday night McDonalds said it would close all its restaurants in Ireland and the UK on Monday evening.

Testing

There are also now about 40,000 people in Ireland waiting for a test for coronavirus, the HSE said on Sunday.

The HSE’s chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said patients were waiting on average between four and five days for results.

She said the HSE had accelerated the provision of testing sites and was looking to reduce the waiting period in the coming days.

There are 35 testing sites operating in Ireland and by Tuesday this would increase to 41, the HSE said.

Financial package

It was also confirmed on Sunday that the Government is worked on a revised financial support package for employees and businesses worst hit by the pandemic.

An estimated 140,000 people have lost their jobs with fears that up to 400,000 could be out of work shortly, due to the impact of the crisis.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Government will introduce a significant financial package next week for those who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus-related disruption and for others at risk of becoming unemployed.

The Government had previously set aside €3 billion in emergency funding to deal with the fallout from the pandemic but now accepts this is insufficient.

A core part of the Government’s response was the €203 weekly payment for employees and self-employed people who have lost their jobs or had hours cut.

More than 58,000 people had applied for the payment three days after its introduction following the closure of schools, childcare facilities and pubs.

However, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said the €203 per week pandemic unemployment payment is not enough for many people “and we need to consider that, but we need to do something really quickly for those at risk of losing their jobs”.

The level of this payment has also been criticised by the Opposition.

Liz Connor and her daughters Ellen (8) and Grace (6) wear protective facemasks as they go for a walk on Mother’s Day in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Liz Connor and her daughters Ellen (8) and Grace (6) wear protective facemasks as they go for a walk on Mother’s Day in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Repatriation

Separately, the Government has announced a flight to bring home more than 100 Irish people stranded in Peru.

Mr Coveney said an agreement has been reached between British Airways and Aer Lingus to charter a flight.

“Between British Airways and Aer Lingus, we now have an agreement to charter a BA plane, to send it to Lima,” he told RTÉ’s This Week.

He also said any decision to further tighten restrictions on the movement of people to deal with the coronavirus crisis will be taken on foot of medical advice and not political pressure.

A member of the National Ambulance Service on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin where defence forces tents have been set up alongside the LE Samuel Beckett ahead of it becoming operational as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photograph: PA
A member of the National Ambulance Service on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin where defence forces tents have been set up alongside the LE Samuel Beckett ahead of it becoming operational as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photograph: PA

Equipment

After doctors raised concerns about a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for use when dealing with patients with Covid-19, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the health service had “a good stock overall”.

He said the HSE has been working in a difficult market and had recently placed an order for more than €200 million worth of equipment from China.

He said this equipment would include 11 million masks, one million goggles, 400,000 gowns and suits.

Supplies of the new equipment would be air freighted to Ireland, the HSE chief said.

Mr Reid also said he expected to see the emergence of significant clusters of cases of coronavirus.

He also said procurement of ventilators was continuing. “We’ve already secured 300 and a further 1,000 will be delivered over the coming weeks.

Mr Reid said the HSE was working with the private hospital sector now had a capacity for about 500 intensive care beds.

Mr Reid said the pandemic would place the Irish health service under stress “like we’ve never known before”’ over the coming weeks.

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