Signs that rise in infections is slowing due to social distancing
NURSING homes have been hit by 22 clusters of the coronavirus leaving several vulnerable elderly residents severely ill from the infection.
Another 19 clusters – where groups of connected people are infected – have also broken out in hospitals, according to a new analysis of the spread of the infection.
A breakdown of the age group of the 33 people who died from the virus up to midnight last Thursday shows people over 65 have borne the brunt with 29 deaths.
However, four fatalities were in younger age groups, including a patient aged in the 25 to 34-years age group.
It comes as the death toll rose to 46 yesterday as the virus claimed the lives of another 10 patients, including eight men and two women.
The median age of the deceased was 77 years and six of the patients were in the north-east, three in the north-west and one in the south.
The number of new cases also jumped by another 200 but the indications are the increase is being slowed as a result of physical distancing and the closure of schools and businesses.
“We must remain focused in our shared efforts to prevent the spread of this infection, to prevent severe illness, especially that which requires intensive care admission and ultimately save lives,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.
Health Minister Simon Harris is to meet with Nursing Homes Ireland amid growing concern about the manner in which the virus is taking hold in some homes, including nursing homes run by the HSE.
Nursing Homes Ireland chief Tadhg Daly said the HSE should not be recruiting staff from nursing homes at this stage and they needed to secure a share of the cargo of protective clothing and equipment that arrived from China yesterday in order to safeguard their staff.
HSE official Anne O’Connor said the surge in the infection peak was expected in the middle of April and there could be more than 1,200 patients in hospital who were seriously ill receiving critical care and ventilation support.
“We are certainly working towards the peak in mid-April – so over the next two to three weeks.
“And that is what we are planning for, but clearly we don’t know. But we do have to work on some basis when it comes to planning, so we are planning for a peak kind of between April 10 and 14, around that time.”
There were 88 patients in intensive care yesterday – seven times higher than 10 days ago. They are mainly in the large Dublin hospitals, but hospitals in Cork and Limerick are also seeing a rise.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the reality was that hospitals would be under pressure but every effort had been made to increase capacity, doubling the number of critical care beds from 250 to 500.
About 1,700 additional beds with ventilation support would be available, with plans to increase that number by 100 each week for the next 10 weeks. “I know the public is nervous, our healthcare workers are very nervous too and we are nervous for them,” he said.
“So it is going to be a difficult period. So this is a special call-out from me as the CEO of the HSE to really support our healthcare workers in the coming weeks.”
Dr Sarah Keogh, a public health specialist, said people aged over 70 and those who are vulnerable due to illness should follow the call to cocoon over the next two weeks.
She said they should not leave their homes even if they feel healthy and fit.
They should continue to take exercise at home or go into their garden if they have one.
There will be supports available to ensure those who are ‘cocooning’ at home have access to food and other essentials.
More details about a network of supports are expected to be outlined by local authorities today.
The authorities will oversee a national co-ordination strategy involving various agencies.
The health officials and medics again appealed to people to follow the guidelines on physical distancing and stay at home as much as they can to prevent the spread of the virus which is circulating in communities.
Figures up to midnight on Friday, when there were 2,216 cases, show that more than one in two of those infected was male and the median age was 47 years.
Some 506 cases of the infection are associated with healthcare workers.
Dublin has the highest number of cases at 1,233 – 56pc of all infections – followed by Cork with 208 cases.
Of those for whom transmission status is known, community transmission accounts for 51pc, close contact accounts for 24pc and travel abroad accounts for 25pc.
Italy yesterday decided to extend its month-long lockdown as the number of deaths in the country increased by 756 to reach 10,779.
There are now 97,689 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Italy.