Four things we are likely to see happen as Covid-19 battle enters crunch time

Health chief Dr Tony Holohan

Eilish O'Regan

This week will mark a turning point for the impact of the coronavirus in the Republic.

Amid all the uncertainty there are four things highly likely in terms of the escalation of numbers infected and in the response of the health service as well as the public.

1. A dramatic rise in people testing positive for Covid-19

We will move from the hundreds to the thousands of people testing positive for the virus.

It was only on March 1 that the first case, involving a student, was found but it seems we have been living with it for months.

Yesterday, the toll breached 1,000 and community transmission - where a person picks it up during their daily life without knowing the source - is at 44pc, with travel now accounting for just one third.

GPs have been swarmed with patients seeking a test and limited testing facilities have taken time to roll out, leaving patients waiting several days to provide a swab.

However, the HSE said this will change this week with 41 testing centres open today and more on the way to make in-roads into the 40,000 backlog. Around 6,000 tests a day will be carried out.

2. Increased admissions to hospital and intensive care

The trend in growing numbers of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospital and put in intensive care has been growing in momentum in recent days and this will intensify.

Hospitals will be under pressure due to the rising demand but it will remain manageable .

There are more than 2,200 empty beds because so much other activity has been cancelled or transferred.

Nearly 200 intensive-care beds were ready at the weekend and more are to be procured from private hospitals.

As of Sunday, 211 have been hospitalised and admitted to intensive care. A study from Italy, said patients that survive the infection are spending an average of 15 days in intensive care. The rate of increase in admissions in the coming weeks will be pivotal.

3. Keeping our distance from each other

The social distancing rule - or physical distance as has more accurately been christened - will continue for many months ahead.

Further restrictions are expected this week to prevent people descending in big groups on popular outdoor sites.

We can expect more enforcement of the two-metre distance rule in public places between two people.

This is still just the second week of social distancing and the hope is that more of us will become more conditioned to it in our daily activities.

4. Reward of lives saved for sticking to the rules

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar predicted a possible 15,000 cases of coronavirus here at the end of the month, which is next Tuesday.

The reward will be if the rate of increase has slowed because of the nation's sacrifice.

It may be difficult to measure the impact, but chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said there are already signs that less contacts of positive cases are coming from outside households. The truth is that the any slowing down in the increase will have saved lives.