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Up to 15,000 could be infected in two weeks - Varadkar


Whole new ball game: Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium is being used as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Whole new ball game: Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium is being used as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Whole new ball game: Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium is being used as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

The nation has just seven days to slow down the spread of the coronavirus as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted up to 15,000 may be infected in just two weeks.

The stark warning to abide by the rules of social distancing and hand-washing, along with the other drastic restrictions on behaviour, was issued last night by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

"The behaviours we adopt in the next seven days will form the template for how we interrupt the spread of this virus over the coming months."

He added: "We need to sustain social distancing, respiratory hygiene and these new ways of behaving if we are to succeed in minimising the threat posed by Covid-19."

He was speaking as another 54 people were diagnosed with the virus, bringing the toll to 223.

Research commissioned by the Department of Health shows more than three-quarters of people are staying at home more often.

And nearly one in two have started working from home.

The impact was seen yesterday in normally busy buses and commuter trains with rows of empty seats as the business closures and job losses were revealed.

Mr Varadkar admitted that there may be 100,000 people who will lose their jobs and he pledged social welfare supports for employees and employers.

The hidden effects of the coronavirus crisis were also suffered by some cancer patients who are having their surgery postponed in a major treating hospital.

St Vincent's Hospital, in Dublin, confirmed specialists are having to review their patients based on clinical need and "some surgeries are being rearranged for the coming weeks".

The ongoing devastating fallout for the nation followed an admission by Mr Varadkar that the number of new people infected by the virus will jump by 30pc a day and it could reach 15,000 by the end of the month.

"Most people will be well and be treated at home and it's important they stay at home. But a percentage will need to be hospitalised and a smaller proportion again may need critical care."

He was speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee overseeing the crisis and the launch of a plan outlining how the Government intends to tackle the health, economic and social effects.

The virus cannot be stopped and it is likely to be weeks before the restrictive measures endured by the population will see cases plateau.

"We have hundreds of ventilators, hundreds more have been secured. But we cannot say at this stage whether the number of people who need to be ventilated will match the number of ventilators we have."

Projections that half of the population may get the virus may materialise but it is important for people to know this would be spread out over months.

It was decided not to call for the closure of cafés and restaurants but he emphasised they need to impose social distancing between customers.

Health Minister Simon Harris said a massive recruitment campaign for people with health-related skills will be launched today, and the message will be: "Your country needs you."

A big ramping up in the tracking of coronavirus patients' movements will see thousands of public service workers reassigned to contact tracing.

It will involve an unprecedented level of movement of civil servants into new roles.

Departments will also shift staff to help with the processing of social welfare payments for those workers who have lost their jobs during the crisis.

Meanwhile, many GPs are to man the phones in their surgeries today, despite the St Patrick's Day holiday, to meet a deluge in demand for coronavirus tests from patients.

Although their surgeries will not be open, the doctors will be available on the phone to assess patients who fear they have symptoms of the killer infection and need a test.

Trinity College Dublin has told students living on campus they must go home, other than in very exceptional cases. It comes as college authorities confirm they are aware of at least eight confirmed cases.

Irish Independent