Covid-19: A further 56 deaths and 574 new cases recorded by Nphet this evening
Two more deaths in Northern Ireland where half a million vaccine doses have been administered
In total 356 patients are receiving hospital treatment, with 44 in intensive care. File photograph: The Irish Times
A further 56 people have died from Covid-19 in the Republic, while another 574 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported by the Department of Health.
The youngest of those who died was 16 years of age.
There has now been a total of 4,237 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland, while the total number of confirmed cases stands at 216,870.
Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health, urged members of the public to continue to adhere to public health guidelines in light of plans to reopen schools in the coming weeks.
“We continue to see good progress, but this needs to be sustained,” he said. “It is vital that we get our children back to school over the coming weeks.
“A key part of making this a success will be our continued collective buy-in to the public health measures that are tried and tested. Stay at home, work from home where possible.
“Given the increased transmissibility of the virus now, we must continue to limit our social contacts and do all we can to starve this disease of opportunities to spread.”
Of the deaths reported on Wednesday, 31 of occurred in February, 13 in January, three in December or earlier, while a further nine are under investigation.
The median age of those who died was 82 years and the age range was 16-97 years.
Of the cases notified, 285 are men while 287 are women. Two thirds of them are under 45, while the median age is 34-years-old.
The largest number of new cases were in Dublin where there were 175, while elsewhere there were 57 in Limerick, 43 in Kildare, 37 in Galway, and 35 in Meath. The remaining 227 cases were spread across 18 other counties.
As of 8am on Wednesday, there were 652 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 137 were in intensive care. There were 35 additional hospitalisations over the previous 24 hours.
As of Sunday, 353,971 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the Republic. Some 222,073 people have received their first dose, while 131,898 people have received their second dose.
More than half a million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Northern Ireland, the North’s Department of Health said on Wednesday.
The vaccinations include 478,825 first doses and 31,345 second doses.
The North’s Minister for Health, the UUP MLA Robin Swann, described it as a “landmark figure” which had been made possible by the “collective effort” of everyone in the health and social care system.
So far in the North 95 per cent of the over 80s and 90 per cent of those aged between 75-79 have received their first dose of the vaccine, as well as 84 per cent of the 70-74 age group and 69 per cent of people between 65 and 69.
A total of 37 per cent of people regarded as clinically extremely vulnerable have received their injection, with the vaccination programme expanded last week to include all carers aged 18 and over.
People with a learning disability will now be called forward by GPs for vaccination, if they haven’t already received an invitation.
From April the SSE Arena in Belfast will be opened as a mass vaccination centre for adults aged 60 and under who have not yet been vaccinated.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Swann said he would “rather be too cautious than reckless” about emerging from lockdown and ministers must not “jump the gun” and relax restrictions too soon.
He defended ministers’ decision that there should be a phased return to school, with only the youngest primary school children and those in the exam years of secondary school going back to class from March 22nd.
Members of the DUP, including the North’s First Minister and the Minister for Education, have called for the decision to be revisited.
“Whilst I note that England has decided to open all schools from March 8th, it is also important to recognise that Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have all decided on something else, and we should not apologise for taking our own decisions. Otherwise, what is the point of devolution?
“The gradual, step-by-step approach agreed collectively by the Executive was the correct one,” he said. “I don’t want to be back here in the spring or early summer commentating on another Covid surge, or on our hospitals filling up, or our staff being exhausted ... I don’t want to have to propose further restrictions at that point.
“So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because there is always a danger when we discuss any easing of restrictions that some people will jump to the conclusion that the danger has passed, that this is over or nearly over, because we are not there yet,” he said.
The Executive is due to publish its blueprint for exiting lockdown, which has been in force in the North since St Stephen’s Day, on Monday.
The North’s Department of Health reported on Wednesday that two more people with Covid-19 had died, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,043. A further 260 people tested positive for the virus.
The average case rate in Northern Ireland over the last seven days currently stands at 100 per 100,000 people.
In total 356 patients with coronavirus are receiving hospital treatment, with 44 in intensive care.
The North’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, said the vaccine rollout was ahead of schedule and was a “significant step forward” in the fight against the virus.
He said the data showed a “continued reduction in the number of [COVID-19]cases in those over 60 years of age”, and this was a result of the vaccine programme and the measures people were taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
There was also a “very significant decline” in deaths from Covid-19, which was “increasingly an impact of the vaccination programme, which is reducing cases in the community and protecting those most at risk of severe disease.”