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Reports Cormac McQuinn, Political Correspondent
AS few as 18,000 homes may be built this year due to coronavirus restrictions, 7,000 short of the government target.
The estimate was made by Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien as the Dáil debated the impact of the emergency on the existing housing crisis.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said that 5,000 homes were built in the first quarter of the year before construction work was halted.
He said that almost 40 sites have been reopened for 1,000 homes as they were social housing developments that are near completion.
A contact tracing app may be made available to people living in Northern Ireland as part of an all-island approach to tackling Covid-19, Ireland’s Health Minister has said.
Simon Harris was asked in the Dail on Thursday if the contact tracing app would be made available on Apple iTunes so people in the region could use it.
The HSE is aiming to release its contact tracing app, to help identify close contacts of a confirmed case of Covid-19, by the end of this month.
The reproductive rate for Covid-19 in Ireland is now considered stable, while admissions to hospitals and ICUs have halved since last week.
Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dail on Thursday the reproductive rate is now between 0.3 to 0.8, according to estimates carried out.
He said: “The R0 was previously in a range of 0.5-0.8 – it is now between 0.3-0.5 in some estimates and the overall rate is now considered stable at around 0.5.
“Last week, hospital admissions were at around 40 per day, whereas this week it is around 20 per day."
The Department of Health has been notified of 29 more deaths linked to Covid-19 and a further 137 people have tested positive for Covid-19.
There are 22,385 confirmed coronavirus cases in Ireland.
Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, as of midnight, Tuesday 5 May (22,186 cases), reveals:
Reports Cate McCurry, PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is possible Covid-19 was already in Ireland last year.
He said further research and retrospective testing will give a better idea of when the virus arrived in Ireland.
The first case of Covid-19 was confirmed at the end of February but the Taoiseach said it should not be assumed the virus arrived from Italy at that time.
Reports Hugh O'Connell, Political Correspondent
FIANNA Fáil and Fine Gael have committed to seeking reforms to the EU’s strict fiscal rules to pay for the rebuilding of the Irish economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have told the Social Democrats that the rules which limit EU member states’ borrowing and spending power will have to be reformed in the wake of the pandemic emergency in order to invest in healthcare, housing, transport and climate action measures.
The SocDems asked the civil war parties to commit to publicly campaigning for the long-term suspension and reform of the rules in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
The restrictions on running excessive budget deficits are suspended temporarily by the EU to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic - but it is unclear when they will be reintroduced.
In a letter sent to SocDem co-leaders Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy on Tuesday, the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have also said they are willing to agree to ring-fence funding to implement the Sláintecare health reforms and said the first task of a new government will be to produce a national economic plan with input from employer and employee bodies.
Messrs Martin and Varadkar said they want to meet with the Social Democrats to tease out what specific changes could be made to the fiscal rules.
IT WOULD be mandatory for people arriving in Ireland to give details of where they are self-isolating due to coronavirus under proposals being considered by the government.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that the measure is being examined after the issue was raised in the Dáil by Independent TDS Marian Harkin and Michael Collins.
It comes after Independent.ie revealed that a third of people arriving in Ireland over the last six weeks refused to hand over details of where they were staying for two weeks to allow authorities confirm they were self-isolating.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland
Reports Cormac McQuinn, Political Correspondent
THE uncertainly over the holding of the Leaving Cert amid coronavirus restrictions has been branded as "unacceptable" by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government will "try to bring a conclusion" to the issue this week.
As it stands the Leaving Cert is due to begin on July 29 and the government has said it wants students to have two weeks in school first.
But concerns have been raised about social distancing in exam halls and the stress placed on students and Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne has said it should be cancelled.
Mr Martin told the Dáil that "the position regarding the Leaving Cert is unacceptable".
He claimed that no other government in Europe has allowed "such a lack of clarity and confusion" over their second level exams.
Mr Martin said: "We are now beyond the stage where clarity must be provided and the Government must be honest about the ability to complete the leaving certificate in the coming months."
He asked how arbitrary dates can be "bandied about" without providing information about the public health limitations for what can and cannot be done.
He said: "Why have members of Government talked about starting dates for examinations without any detail on how that can be accomplished?"
Later Mr Varadkar said: "I fully appreciate the distress and the uncertainty which sixth year students are under."
He added: "I still get nightmares about my leaving certificate maths paper, I know how traumatic the leaving certificate can be for many people.
"We will try to bring a conclusion to this matter this week as best we can," he said.
Reports Cormac McQuinn, Political Correspondent
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that emergency unemployment payments to people who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis will continue beyond mid-June.
But he said no decision has been made on whether it would stay at €350-a-week as he traded political blows with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on the issue in the Dáil.
While she claimed the government would protect the privileged over workers Mr Varadkar severely criticised Sinn Féin's record in government in the North accusing the party of being "two-faced".
He highlighted how the minimum wage and unemployment payment there is lower and how Sinn Féin promoted how food parcels have been handed out in the North on Facebook.
Mr Varadkar said it's a great thing to do and the government here supports food banks.
But he added: "What we don't do is post on Facebook pictures of our ministers and visiting them, and handing out food to the poor.
"Because what you should do in Northern Ireland - and you're the leader of Sinn Féin in all of Ireland - is make sure that people that the Northern Ireland executive matches what we're doing."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar comments on the criticism to the governments pace of easing lock-down restrictions.
THE government is "increasingly confident" the first phase of reopening Ireland can begin on May 18, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.
Mr Varadkar said that ministers will make the decision on the easing of coronavirus restrictions on Friday May 15.
Under the government's roadmap up to four people from different households can meet outdoors and sports facilities like golf courses would be able to reopen.
Garden centres and hardware stores where social distancing can be practiced would also be in line for reopening.
A third of people arriving in Ireland over the last six days refused to hand over details of where they were staying to allow authorities confirm they were self-isolating.
The Irish Independent has seen new figures which show hundreds of people who flew in to Dublin Airport during that time did not fill in forms detailing where they would be staying.
The forms requested information about the address where the individual would stay for the two weeks after they arrived here.
Under new rules introduced by the Government to stop the spread of Covid-19 from overseas, anyone arriving in Ireland is asked to sign a passenger location form when they arrive at the airport.
The annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, where thousands of worshippers climb the sacred Mayo mountain, could this year become an all-ticket affair
Reek Sunday takes place every year on the last Sunday of July. However, due to the coronavirus restrictions, the popular event has been thrown in doubt.
Westport parish priest Fr Charlie McDonnell admitted if the pilgrimage does get the green light it will be a "logistical nightmare making sure everything is right".
The pilgrimage attracts up to 4,000 climbers every year, with many making their way up the jagged scree slope barefoot.
Optical retail chain Specsavers has reported an increase in eye injuries which were sustained from DIY projects at home.
The retailer has seen a spike in injuries involving foreign objects in the eye and has urged caution and encouraged wearing eye protection when customers are chopping firewood, pruning in the garden, drilling or grinding and that suitable eye protection is worn.
Some of the DIY at home tasks which may pose a hazard are -
Trimming the hedge: "Twigs in the eye are incredibly common – sometimes people may fail to notice the tip of a branch as they lean over to prune a hedge or push piles of twigs into the bin. This can cause anything from small scratches to ripping off layers of the cornea which can be extremely painful," said Specsavers optometrist and store director, Kerril Hickey.
Mowing and strimming: "Watch out for objects hidden in your lawn that could be caught up and spat out by your lawnmower or strimmer, like rogue clothes pegs for example."
Handling irritants: "It’s so important to avoid touching or rubbing your eye as there are chemicals which can burn the eye and even plants that can cause severe allergic reactions. We have treated reactions that have caused significant swelling or have caused tiny blood vessels to leak and cause extreme redness."
Power tools and pressure washers: "Take extra care using power tools and pressure washers that can cause foreign objects to fly into the eye at speed. Specsavers once treated a man who had used electric shearers on a hedge concealing a wire fence – he thought it was a piece of bark that was causing his eye pain but when we examined him we realised it was actually a small piece of metal which had lodged itself right inside his eye," she said.
Hand sanitisers can also pose a danger if they become trapped in the eye.
Paint, solvents and chemicals: "Paint can contain chemicals that are severe irritants while substances with a high alcohol content – even alcohol-based hand gel for example – can be a real danger as it can remove the epithelium…the layer of tissue that covers the cornea.’ Strong alkalis such as caustic soda and wet plaster and cement are also very harmful to the eyes."
Joinery: ‘"This can be a key culprit of foriegn objects in the eye. Don’t risk hammering without safety goggles on as it’s so easy for a nail or flint to spark back up into the eye," added Ms Hickey.
New figures show that 31pc of Irish professionals have had an online account compromised since working remotely.
Research from identity and access management company OneLogin shows that 31pc of 1,000 people surveyed had an online account compromised, with 23pc of those compromised then updating their online passwords, however the remaining 7pc didn’t take any action.
An estimated 300,000 Irish professionals are currently believed to be working remotely.
Over a third of those surveyed are using personal computers for remote working, a quarter use work devices for online gambling or gaming and 13pc use it to access adult entertainment sites.
65pc of participants anticipate their working culture will be realigned to facilitate more remote working in future.
With the UK death toll reaching almost 30,000 - the highest in Europe - other countries have looked on in disbelief at what they judge to be the UK's delays, missteps and complacency.
One of the most damning assessments was in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' under the headline 'Biggest failure in a generation: Where did Britain go wrong?'
The paper focused on four main failings: the lack of PPE for healthcare workers, repeated delays in implementing a lockdown, a bungled test and tracing regime, and the failure to protect care home residents.
Mike Rann, a former Australian high commissioner to Britain, said the UK made key mistakes when they had the most damaging impact.
Christy Dignam has been left heartbroken after his beloved father, Christy Snr, lost his battle with Covid-19.
The former CIE employee (89), sadly passed away this afternoon after contracting the virus while in a Finglas nursing home.
A dementia sufferer, he was diagnosed with Covid-19 ten days ago.
In a cruel twist, Christy Jr was unable to visit him due to his own battle with amyloidosis, a rare form of blood cancer.
The Aslan frontman (59) has paid tribute to his father, describing him as an “amazing man” who was his biggest influence in life.
The first patients have been given plasma donated by people who have recovered from coronavirus in a trial for a possible treatment.
Fourteen units of convalescent plasma have been supplied to hospitals in London and Birmingham in the hope they can help people battling the illness by improving their speed of recovery and chances of survival.
The cancellation of the Leaving Cert is now on the cards.
The difficulties involved in conducting the exams safely, along with demands for certainty for students now, have made the decision inevitable.
In a key development yesterday, it is understood that teacher unions told Department of Education officials that running the exams against the challenges presented by Covid-19 was not compatible with health and safety.
Teachers play a critical role in organising and supervising the exams - for about 61,000 students in about 730 schools this year - and without them it would be impossible to go ahead. Education Minister Joe McHugh is not expected to announce his decision on the fate of Leaving Cert 2020 for several days, but there seems no little or no doubt but that it will be called off.
Heart disease is the most common underlying health condition in coronavirus patients admitted to hospital intensive care units across the country, it emerged yesterday.
An analysis of the first 327 of the sickest patients with the virus revealed that half (165) had chronic heart disease.
Chronic respiratory disease was diagnosed in 76 patients and another 74 had diabetes.
Another 53 were obese and 34 had asthma.
Boris Johnson will review coronavirus lockdown measures with ministers on Thursday ahead of an expected easing of restrictions from next week.
The UK Prime Minister will chair a Cabinet meeting for a legal review of the restrictions, which cover England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to see what freedoms the public can enjoy while the spread of the virus is kept under control.
Mr Johnson hinted he will announce a limited return to pre-pandemic life in an address to the nation on Sunday, with new measures set to come in as early as Monday.
Reports suggest changes could include unlimited exercise, the return of some sports, park picnics, and the opening of pub and cafe gardens - but people would still be required to remain two metres apart.
The move could also see the Government scrap its "stay home" slogan, and encourage people to wear face coverings on public transport and in crowded places as some return to work.
China’s government has declared the whole country is low risk as the number of coronavirus cases fall to nearly zero.
The country’s National Health Administration reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with Covid-19.
In addition, there have been no deaths reported from the virus for more than three weeks.
The last place downgraded from high to low risk was Linkou county outside the city of Mudanjiang in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia and where the most recent spike in cases had been reported.
A kind-hearted Kerry fisherman was so moved by the sight of Fungie the dolphin being lonely he now undertakes daily trips just to keep him company.
Jimmy Flannery, from Dingle, Co Kerry, is a hugely experienced fisherman and helped found the local fishermen's group.
However, he was taken aback by the realisation that Fungie, a famous solitary dolphin living off the west Kerry coast since 1983, had become lonely without any human interaction over the past two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
"Fungie was lonely alright," he said.
An HSE nursing home has launched an investigation after a grieving family was given the personal effects of two other deceased residents among items belonging to their father, who passed away from Covid-19.
In an email to the family who made the traumatic discovery, the acting director of nursing at Clonskeagh Community Nursing home in Dublin described the incident as a "serious error".
The shocking blunder only came to light when the family of Jim Houlihan, who passed away from coronavirus last month, went through several bags that had been given to them by nursing home staff after he died.
The family were told the bags contained items that had been removed from their father's room.
A whistleblower in a HSE nursing home where a significant number of patients have died from Covid-19 has made a protected disclosure over the handling of the outbreak at the facility.
The staff member, who works in a Dublin nursing home, has claimed concerns raised by healthcare workers about the welfare of residents fell on “deaf ears”.
A 35-page dossier containing serious allegations of failings at the home was made to Health Minister Simon Harris and the CEO of the HSE, Paul Reid, last night.
It was lodged under protected disclosure legislation which aims to protect people who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace.