Coronavirus: Two more deaths and 235 new cases confirmed in Republic

Two more deaths reported in North as Harris says country is just at beginning of the crisis

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan says that he does not expect complacency among the public over the lower than expected positive tests numbers for Covid-19. Video: RTÉ

 

Two more patients with coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, have died and the number of new cases reached a daily high of 235 on Wednesday.

The two deaths were in a woman in the east of the country, who had an underlying health condition, and a man, also in the east, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

There have now been a total of nine death from coronavirus in the Republic.

The total number of cases now numbers 1,564, NPHET said at its briefing on Wednesday evening.

Detailed figures released on Wednesday from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the 1,164 cases recorded as of midnight on Monday, March 23rd are as follows:

  • 55 per cent are male and 45 per cent are female with 63 clusters involving 289 cases
  • The median age of confirmed cases is 45 years
  • 305 cases (26 per cent) have been hospitalised
  • Of those hospitalised, 39 cases have been admitted to ICU
  • 283 cases (24 per cent) are associated with healthcare workers
  • Dublin has the highest number of cases at 559 (57 per cent of all cases) followed by Cork with 133 cases (11 per cent)
  • Of those for whom transmission status is known: community transmission accounts for 49 per cent, close contact accounts for 23 per cent, travel abroad accounts for 28 per cent

Complacency warning

Earlier on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there is unlikely to be 15,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ireland by the end of this month as he had previously warned.

However, Mr Varadkar warned against any complacency in the fight against the spread of the disease.

Mr Varadkar said in recent weeks that the number of cases could reach 15,000 by the end of March, but with 1,329 confirmed cases as of Tuesday night, this level is unlikely to be reached in the next week.

The 15,000 future cases figure was estimated without taking account of the effect of the restrictions and social distancing, though was used repeatedly by Mr Varadkar to warn about the possible extent of the crisis.

It was also announced on Wednesday that two further patients with coronavirus have died in Northern Ireland.

A total of seven people who had tested positive for coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, have now died in the North.

According to the latest figures from the Public Health Agency (PHA) 37 new cases of coronavirus have been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 209.

‘Many more cases’

Speaking during briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar cautioned that while this accounted for confirmed cases, “there are many, many more cases out there that are not confirmed”.

He also said that while the measures being implemented by people did seem to be having an effect, “it is certainly the case that the number of new cases is continuing to rise.

“We’re still seeing not far off 200 new cases every day and we can’t even being to contemplate the idea that we’re containing this virus until we start to see the number of new cases every day fall, and fall consistently.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the country was just at the beginning of the crisis and pointed to concerns at the number of admissions to hospital intensive care units, which stood at 36 on Tuesday night.

Asked what the capacity of the health service was, Mr Harris said it was growing day by day.

He said the health service would “temporarily acquire hotels in the coming days”.

Private hospitals had also been added to the public system, he said.

“Everything that can be done, will be done,” he said. “Financial constraints have not been in place in this regard.”

‘Too early’

He emphasised that whatever capacity was added, it would not be enough unless the spread of the virus was slowed, and cautioned against any belief that the latest numbers were encouraging.

The State’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the number of contacts that cases were reporting had fallen substantially, from about 20 to five, but it was “far too early” to take too much encouragement from that.

He said that 45 per cent of new infections were from community transmission, and added that this was the reason behind the change in the public health advice which led to the shutdown of many businesses ordered by the Government.

Mr Harris also condemned the practice of coughing in people’s faces and filming the encounter for release on social media. He said that a couple had done this to him on Tuesday.

“It’s not a game. It’s disgusting,” he said, and warned that the full rigours of all of the powers that the State has would be used.

Mr Harris and Mr Varadkar were speaking at a press conference in Government Buildings this afternoon which also launched a new leaflet on the coronavirus which will be delivered to every household by An Post.

An Post chief executive David McRedmond said postal service staff would now call to older and vulnerable citizens to inquire if they required any assistance, and would also take letters and parcels and deliver them for free.

He said the company was also in discussions about a national newspaper delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable.

Mr Varadkar said there was no plan for an emergency budget but acknowledged that for any legislation to be passed after this week, a government would have to be formed. He said that he believed a government could be formed in the coming weeks.