THERE have been 21 more deaths and 390 new cases of the coronavirus in Ireland.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre announced that 17 of today's deaths were located in the east, two were in the south and two were in the west of the country.
The deaths included nine women and 12 men and the median age of reported deaths is 81.
12 were reported as having underlying health conditions.
There have now been 158 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland and 4,994 confirmed cases.
The HSE is working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health, said:
“This past week has proven that the nation is working hard, together, by staying at home to flatten the curve.
“If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 you need to self-isolate and phone your GP. I ask that everyone inform themselves on what to do in the instance they develop symptoms, as well as how to maintain their health and wellbeing. Support and guidance is available on gov.ie/health and HSE.”
In Northern Ireland, a further seven patients have died today after contracting the virus.
It brings the total number of deaths associated with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland to 63.
The Public Health Agency said that 91 more cases of the virus have also been confirmed taking the total number to 1,089. Some 8,486 people have been tested for the virus.
UK death toll rises
The new figures come as the UK death toll hits almost 5,000.
A total of 4,934 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday, the Department of Health said. This is up by 621 from 4,313 on Friday.
New measures on way
Earlier today, the Sunday Independent reported that the Irish health authorities are set to unveil a range of new measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis as figures continue to rise.
The Government is deploying GPs to the frontline in the war on Covid-19 following a grim week in which the death toll from the pandemic doubled.
From this week, doctors will be posted to the first of 40 community assessment centres which are scheduled to open across the country for patients who have or are assumed to have the virus.
They will refer sick patients to hospital, to self-isolate at home, or to one of the self-isolation accommodation centres provided by the Government, such as Citywest.
GPs will operate the community hubs on a voluntary basis, but it is understood that their practices will receive a support grant equivalent to €120 an hour.
The measures are being ramped up to coincide with expectations that the coronavirus will peak in mid-April, as announced by the Health Service Executive's chief operations officer, Anne O'Connor, last week.
As concern mounts over the growing clusters of coronavirus infection in 40 facilities, Health Minister Simon Harris announced a €72m bailout for private nursing homes.
Private nursing home operators:
- Will be paid €800 extra per month for every resident they have on the Fair Deal scheme up to 40 residents, under the terms of the package;
- Will be paid €400 per month for the next 40 and €200 for any thereafter;
- Can claim up to €75,000 for extra expenses incurred from introducing new measures to protect residents from the coronavirus but they will have to present a business case to the Department of Health.
Mr Harris also announced a series of new public health measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus between nursing home residents and staff.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar advised the public to take "one day at a time".
"We are nine days into the latest social restrictions and every day they affect us in a different way. My approach is to take one day at a time, trying to make each one the most fruitful it can be, and never losing hope for tomorrow.
"We are living through a massive global crisis and it would be unusual if we didn't feel a little scared or overwhelmed. Some of us are grieving and others are fearful of what is to come.
"We will have good days and we will have bad days before better days return again. Today let's remember that this will pass, and hope can be contagious too."
Irish hospitals warned over cyber attacks
Meanwhile, earlier today Irish hospitals and healthcare facilities were warned they are now being targeted by ruthless international cyber criminals seeking to exploit the Covid-19 crisis.
Cork-based cyber protection firm, Smarttech247, said hospitals across Ireland and Europe now face an unprecedented threat from gangs seeking to cash-in on the pandemic.
Interpol, in a formal warning to Ireland and other European countries, said hospitals and healthcare agencies at the forefront of the global response to the Covid-19 outbreak have become targets of ransomware attacks designed to lock them out of their critical systems in an attempt to extort payments.
Global cyber-gangs, having initially ignored the pandemic, are now seeking to exploit the Covid-19 crisis for profit.
The international police agency said the threat was very serious - and could have devastating consequences if key hospitals are effectively locked-out of their core IT systems, with the potential for lives to be lost.
Smarttech247 said it had noted an alarming increase in "brute force" attacks aimed at overpowering IT security systems.
“The issuing of a so-called Purple Notice by Interpol to all 194 of its member countries shows how serious the threat has become," Smarttech247 General Manager Raluca Saceanu said.
"Cybercriminals had previously been reluctant to target medical institutions during the crisis, however these are often ruthless individuals driven by profit at any cost."
"Our security operations centres have noted a significant spike in so-called “brute force” attacks, as well as ransomware attempts in the past three weeks.
"Hospitals here need to be sure that their systems have been fully updated, and patched against any threats that have previously been identified.”
The Cork-based firm said it is working around-the-clock with several Irish agencies to beef-up protection against such mounting cyber attacks.
"Security operations centres like ours are closely monitoring the activities of these criminals globally, and we urge IT managers with concerns to urgently engage external support to ensure the delivery of care in our hospitals can continue without interruption from cyber-attack."
"We are willing to join the national effort to support hospitals who have concerns, and ensure they are protected at no extra cost during this critical time.”
IT experts have urged hospitals and healthcare facilities to exercise extreme care and to follow simple guidelines including: avoid clicking on links or open attachments in suspicious or unexpected emails; ensure all important files are backed up; ensure anti-virus solutions are in place for all devices; use strong, unique passwords for all systems and update all passwords regularly.
The Cork Airport based operation ranks not only as one of the most advanced cyber security firms in Ireland but in the world.
The Cork complex has a 'live' link to the IBM supercomputer and Palo Alto Networks which allows even sophisticated State-backed cyber attacks to be identified and tackled in between two and five minutes.
Tackling such attacks by manual means could require six weeks.
It was Smarttech that revealed last year a major ransomware attack on Ireland was the work of North Korean-backed cyber criminals.
Since 2015, the number of ransomware attacks on firms has increased by a staggering 1,500pc.
President Donald Trump told Americans to brace for a big spike in coronavirus fatalities in the coming days, as the country faces what he called the toughest two weeks of the pandemic.