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126 new coronavirus cases amid fears people are ignoring social distancing rules

  • Health Minister asks people to 'redouble their efforts' as 683 coronavirus cases confirmed
  • 'I quite frankly just don't think people are taking this seriously enough' - Simon Harris

  • HSE orders 300 more ventilators to ramp up intensive care capacity

  • People urged to continue social distancing on Mother's Day


Minister for Health Simon Harris (Aidan Crawley/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris (Aidan Crawley/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris (Aidan Crawley/PA)

The coronavirus toll in the Republic surged again today as  126 more tested  positive.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said this brings the total to 683.

Twelve are now in intensive care and three deaths in total.

It follows yesterday’s increase of 191 new cases, signalling that we have entered a phase of sharp escalation.

Dr Holohan said people should continue to avoid mingling outside their own immediate household members this weekend as families mark Mothers Day.

Asked if he was afraid complacency will set among the population as today’s number was lower than yesterday, he said the numbers will continue to grow and the current total is still low compared to what is to come.

It will be the end of next week before any dip in the curve will be seen as a result of social distancing may be seen.

The latest data as of midnight on Wednesday reveal:

  • Of the 438 cases notified, 55 per cent are male and 43% are female, with 27 clusters involving 142 cases
  • Median age of confirmed cases is 44
  • 32pc of cases have been hospitalised
  • 2.7pc (12 cases) admitted to ICU - representing 8.6pc of all cases hospitalised
  • 114 cases are associated with Healthcare workers, 36 of whom are associated with foreign travel
  • Dublin has the highest number of cases at 51pc, followed by Cork 15pc and Limerick and Wicklow have 3pc of cases each

“Now is not the time for complacency. Every citizen who is practicing social distancing, who is taking precautions to limit the spread of this virus, is doing their country a service," Dr Holohan said.

“The Department of Health has issued outdoor social distancing guidelines for everyone to follow. While we encourage people to exercise outside and maintain a healthy lifestyle, social distancing measures will continue to be paramount.”

Earlier today, Health Minister Simon Harris said advice on social distancing advice is not being taken "seriously enough" as coronavirus cases continue to soar.

Mr Harris said that Irish people have an inflated sense of our reaction to the outbreak and need to take social distancing measures more seriously.

"I wouldn't have a national slap ourselves on the back campaign in terms of social distancing," he said.

"I know lots of people are making efforts, but I am nowhere near satisfied that we're taking social distancing seriously and if you look at some of our parks - and it's absolutely appropriate for people to go home, get some fresh air, take some exercise, that's actually good for you - but it's not good for you to be in crowded parks.

"It's not good for the teenagers to be getting together - this is not the summer holidays. We do need people to take social distancing seriously and what that means is, there should be two meters between you and other people."

He continued: "We need people to take this social distancing much more seriously, and maybe when we talk about social distancing it's a phrase we're not familiar with. We need people to stay away from each other. We need people to keep their distance, no matter where you are, you should be trying to stay two meters away from other people.

"I quite frankly just don't think people are taking this seriously enough right now, and I really need people to try and redouble their efforts on us."

Experts warned that up to 15,000 people could be infected in Ireland by the end of the month. Mr Harris told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this morning that he wants to reassure the public, but that there will be a "significant increase" in the number of cases in the coming weeks.

"We very much expect to see a very significant increase in the number of cases of the corona virus diagnosed in Ireland," he said.

"We've gone from a situation whereby until recent days we were only really testing people who'd come back from certain parts of the world - largely Italy and China - to now many GPs referring people for tests on the basis of symptoms.

"So we're gone from a situation of a couple of hundred people a week be tested to a situation where many thousands a day could be tested. But the numbers are the numbers are still a cause for concern, and we know they're going to go up.

However Mr Harris did say that Ireland is in a good position in terms of medical equipment, including 39,000 testing kits arriving in Ireland.

"So, so far, the ICU rate is about 2pc, so seven people who've been admitted ICU and so far there's been 31pc of cases hospitalised, but that figure is a bit skewed because up until last Thursday we were hospitalising everybody with with with the diagnosis.

"On the issue of ventilators, this country has some of the biggest global companies in the world producing ventilators are based here in Ireland. it would be most bizarre as if not unethical that you'd have a situation whereby ventilators being produced in Ireland, and we weren't able to access them here in Ireland.

"The HSE has about 500 already. On top of that, we will have 250 ICU beds with ventilation and the private hospitals, which we're in talks with and talks that need to continue quickly. They have 164 ventilation rooms. And we have. We're about to reach a commercial agreements that we will receive about 300 more ventilators, plus 80 more a week."

This comes as HSE boss Paul Reid made the comments as he said that the 300 ventilators have been ordered in anticipation of an expected increase in Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalisation and intensive care.

His remarks come after Dr Catherine Motherway of University Hospital Limerick wanted that Ireland's ICU capacity is lower than other countries and is a "significant problem".

“We have a limited amount of beds and we have been working very hard for the last number of weeks to try and increase capacity,” she told RTÉ's Prime Time.

Mr Reid was asked about her remarks and if he's satisfied the hospitals can cope with a surge in cases.

He said issues challenges in terms of beds and ICU capacity can be avoided if the public "relentlessly do everything we're asking".

He listed hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, avoiding touching your face, and keeping social distance.

"That will mean that we can avoid a major surge of sickness and illness over a very short space of time," he said.

In relation to ICU capacity Mr Reid acknowledged "we have started from a low benchmark".

But he said plans have been put in place since January that will "see our ICU capacity majorly ramped up".

He said plans involve using private hospital capacity and purchasing more ventilator machines.

"We've secured 300, immediately, straightaway," he said adding that contracts have been placed for between 80 and 100 to be delivered every week.

"We have a thousand respiratory machines in stock - all of those a part of our clinical care support.

"So we will have significantly ramped up our clinical care capacity in a very short period of time," he said.

Meanwhile, the public have been warned not to be lax in measures to combat coronavirus on Mother's Day this weekend.

HSE boss Paul Reid and the government have warned that social distancing and other precautions must still be practiced despite wishes to visit mothers or grandmothers on Sunday.

Junior Minister Seán Canney said he can't see his own 94-year-old mother but added: "she’s very happy because she’s doing something for Ireland again."

The government also delivered a reminder that while parks remain open, social distancing should be practiced outdoors.

Mr Reid said: "we can’t lax the guidance and the rules that are in place for a day.

"It would be misleading to give any other impression that we can just relax the rules for a day on Mother’s Day or anything else."

"What we put in in place we need compliance every minute, every hour, every day – birthdays, Mother’s Day...

"We need it complied with fully every day."

Mr Canney said: "I think everyone in the country has an understanding that that's what we’re at here.

"We're actually not doing something to penalise people. We're doing something that actually is good for the country.

"It’s essential, it’s necessary and we just have to work with it... there is no relenting.

"This virus will not give up for a half an hour or an hour or a day, so we should not either.

"We're at war with this virus and we should continue to be very, very vigilant," Mr Canney said.

Senior government official, Liz Canavan of the Department of the Taoiseach, said that there has been a lot of queries about going outside.

She said parks and forests will be open this weekend and there is the promise of some fine weather.

"We are expecting people to walk and want to get out and have a bit of fresh air."

She issued a reminder that there are guidelines in relation to social distancing and staying two metres away from other people outdoors.

"It is very much about trying to take advantage of the outdoors, but keeping those social distancing measures in mind," she said.

Online Editors

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