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Lockdown set to continue as nation suffers deadliest day with 36 deaths

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Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, and Dr. Ronan  Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer,  pictured this evening at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, and Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, pictured this evening at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, and Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, pictured this evening at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Emergency restrictions will not be eased until our coronavirus testing regime is improved to the point where it is possible to "hunt down" positive cases and contacts within 24 to 48 hours, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned.

It currently takes an average of seven to 10 days to get a test result.

He said a delay of several days would not be "good enough" to allow for emergency measures to be lifted.

He was speaking as Ireland suffered its deadliest day for fatalities with 36 people losing their lives to the virus.

The median age of those who died was 81. There were 19 men and 17 women, bringing the death toll to 210.

Another 345 new cases of the virus were also diagnosed, several of whom had their tests read in a laboratory in Germany because of a lack of capacity here.

There are now 5,709 cases of the virus diagnosed here.

Dr Holohan said at "this point" he did not envisage recommending the emergency measures being lifted on Sunday but there will be a clearer picture to the impact of the restrictions later in the week.

There are relevant indicators such as growth in new cases, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions.

But the assurance that it is possible to detect people who are positive, and trace their contacts, in "real time" will be key to any assessment of when restrictions can be eased.

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"We will also be informed about any advice we are anticipating from the European Centre for Disease and Control," he added.

The virus would have to be "behaving itself" in a way that meant it was under control and residential centres such as nursing homes would also have to have the spread contained.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said around 2,500 tests a day were currently being carried out.

The aim is to bring more laboratories on board including the Department of Agriculture and the Enfer lab later this week.

So far, 42,484 tests have been carried out and some 19pc of samples are now testing positive.

But it will be another "three to four weeks" before the target of 15,000 tests a day is reached, he added.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said there were no longer delays faced by people referred to provide a swab in one of the testing centres around the country.

It is now possible to meet the demand since the criteria was changed and confined to priority groups.

The World Health Organisation said yesterday that it had "no blanket" recommendation for countries and regions on relaxing measures.

But it urged countries not to lift them "too early".

Austria and Denmark have outlined their exit plans. Norway has also signalled it wants to restore normal activity.

Asked about problems in Dublin yesterday, where gardaí had to intervene to urge groups of people exercising to practise physical distancing, Dr Holohan again appealed to everyone to "double down" on the measures in place to get the most out of the restrictions over the Easter weekend.

"The disease is still here and a concern. It is growing day on day," he said.

He said there were currently 138 patients seriously ill with the virus in intensive care.

There have been 22 deaths in intensive care and 45 people have been discharged.

Some 78pc of patients admitted to intensive care had underlying conditions.

Of the 210 people who have died from the virus so far, 154 passed away in hospital.

There were 22 in intensive care, and 162 had an underlying condition.

The virus has taken its toughest toll on men, and they account for 133 of the deaths, with the mean age of people who died at 79 years.

The National Public Health Emergency Team, which met yesterday, will convene again on Friday. The expert group expressed its gratitude to gardaí for being "visibly present" on roads in the past week which assisted the public with compliance. It said that "given the mass community transmission of Covid-19 across Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is expected to advise all EU nationals to keep the current restrictions in place".

The group said a modelling report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which suggested Ireland had passed its peak and would have 400 deaths by August was "unreliable".

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said while masks could help limit the spread of the disease, they were insufficient on their own.

There was no evidence that wearing a mask in the community prevented healthy people from picking up respiratory infections including Covid-19, it said.

The World Health Organisation guidance on healthy people wearing masks in public comes after recent recommendations by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

It urged the US public to wear cloth face coverings in pharmacies, groceries and other public places where physical distancing can be hard to maintain.

The WHO said people who chose to wear masks should use them safely.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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