Coronavirus: Five more deaths brings toll in State to 1,664

NPHET recommends further easing of lockdown from Monday

Dr Tony Holohan and Professor Philip Nolan have spoken about the current Covid-19 situation at the daily National Public Health Emergency Team press conference. Video: RTE News Now

 

A further five deaths of people diagnosed with Covid-19 have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). This bring to 1,664 the total number of deaths in the Republic.

NPHET also reported another 38 new cases of the disease at its briefing on Thursday. This brings the total number of cases to 25,142.

NPHET met earlier on Thursday to decide on its recommendations to Government in relation to the planned further easing of restrictions next week.

It signed off on a number of recommendations including that some larger retailers be allowed open on Monday as long as they have entrances onto the street.

This was due to initially happen on June 29th - phase three of the plan to lift coronavirus restrictions - but is being brought forward to next Monday, June 8th, which is phase two.

The reopening on Monday will not include retailers based in shopping centres.

NPHET has also signed off on measures to help children with special needs and a return to some educational and summer camp activities along with the reopening of playgrounds.

In addition, the advisory body has approved changes to allow visitors into nursing homes in certain circumstances but with strict guidelines on who will be permitted while ensuring visitors observe appropriate hand hygiene and maintain physical distancing from residents.

Nursing homes have restricted visitors since March apart from exceptional circumstances.

The lifting of travel restrictions from 5km to 20km will also proceed as planned from Monday.

In addition, visits to the homes of people aged 70 and over will be permitted by no more than a few people for a short period of time and they must wear face coverings and maintain strict physical distancing of two metres.

For others, up to four people will be advised that they can visit another household for a short period while maintaining physical distancing.

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar also said he hoped international air travel would resume through “air bridges” with countries that have suppressed the virus to a similar extent as Ireland. “This however some weeks away,” he said.

It was “far too soon” for people to book their holidays “but summer is not yet lost”, he added.

Reproduction rate

Speaking in the Dáil, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the reproduction rate of the coronavirus had risen slightly to between 0.4 to 0.7. Also known as “R nought”, it is the rate at which an infected person transmits Covid-19 to others.

Mr Harris also said the Government would later this month announce dates for cancer screening services to start again.

But he told Labour leader Alan Kelly that “I’m not giving commitments that cannot be stood over. It will involve screening being done in different ways. It may involve a phased recommencement and it may involve clinical decisions about who will be called first.”

Screening services for breast, bowel and other cancers were halted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister said health officials had to ensure that healthy women going for BreastCheck screening did not end up getting the virus while attending their appointments.

Mr Harris also told Green party TD Malcolm Noonan that more than 4,000 patients could be treated in private hospitals for the remaining weeks of the deal that finishes at the end of June.

Mr Kelly later questioned why the deal with the 19 private institutions was ended. “Why did you go against HSE chief executive Paul Reid who wanted to keep the private bed capacity, considering you consistently say you go with public health advice.”

The Minister said it was “absolutely a political decision” which many people from other parties agreed with. He said the HSE wanted to know if they could have additional bed capacity. “Any new agreement will have to have ability to take up 100 per cent of private capacity.”

He also told Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall that the review of Vision for Change, the Government’s mental health strategy, would be published next week.

Ms Shortall said that for the remaining period of the deal with private hospitals there should be a single list of patients with services based on clinical need.

On Covid-19 infections, Mr Harris said the number of new cases continued to be lower than in previous weeks but he warned that “it is at a similar level to what it was mid-March when we first brought in our public health measures”.

They had interrupted transmission of the disease with the closure of much of society and the economy.

“The task will be harder as we start to open it up again.”

As well as hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette and social distancing “if we keep the number and duration of our contacts low and stay away from crowds we will make progress”.

In Northern Ireland, one more death was reported on Thursday, bringing the toll to 535. The North’s department of health also reported that 30 more people had tested positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the North to 4,773.