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'Very low' level of disease means path is clear to next easing phase


Optimistic over virus: Professor Philip Nolan of Maynooth University. Picture: Collins

Optimistic over virus: Professor Philip Nolan of Maynooth University. Picture: Collins

Optimistic over virus: Professor Philip Nolan of Maynooth University. Picture: Collins

The country is on course to take the next step to ease the lockdown as the latest trends show the coronavirus is being crushed.

The level of the disease in the community is now "very low" and all indications are that overall control of the virus is now "astonishingly stable".

The optimistic verdict was delivered by Prof Philip Nolan of Maynooth University yesterday, who is leading a team tracking the spread of virus.

He said: "Intensive care and hospital admissions as well as the number of deaths per day continue to decline.

"The number of cases per day remain stable."

There are around one or two admissions to intensive care a day and 50 new cases of the virus daily.

The R number, indicating how many people the average Covid-19 patient passes the virus on to before they recover, is also low at 0.5.

It will be next week before figures that reflect the impact of phase one of exiting lockdown measures will be clear, but even at this stage there are no hints or "disturbance in the data that would lead to worry and that is a good sign".

The next phase of the roadmap to exit lockdown is due to come into effect on June 8 when people may be able to travel 20km, more shops open and over-70s can visit supermarkets.

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However, the ongoing toll of the virus was revealed by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who announced another nine deaths, bringing the total to 1,639.

A report from the Department of Health showed the death rate from the virus here is 6.5 per 100,000 of the population.

It ranks eighth-lowest in a table of 10 countries behind Belgium, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain.

Dr Holohan said not all countries counted confirmed and probable cases of the virus as the Republic does.

More than 60pc of people who have died from the virus have been in residential centres, with half all deaths among nursing home residents.

The National Public Health Emergency Team, which met yesterday, has now said that loss of taste and smell should be added to the list of symptoms that could signal a person is suffering from the coronavirus.

A further 46 cases of the virus were diagnosed yesterday, pushing the total number of infections so far to 24,841.

Dr Holohan reiterated the need for caution but said: "All the signs are that there is still widespread compliance with restrictions."

Isolated incidents of non-compliance were being handled by gardaí, he added.

He also indicated there would be no fast tracking of measures outlined in the five-stage roadmap.

It is expected guidelines ready next week could lead to activities like summer camps for children going ahead, as long as precautions are followed.

Dr Holohan said: "We are not seeing increases in infection for the most part in countries where schools have been reopened.

"We are encouraged by that but it is early days."

Questioned about people attending Mass at a church in Blackrock, Dublin, he said they were sensitive to people's religious beliefs, but now was not the time for public gatherings.

Meanwhile, new ESRI research today shows that half of a representative sample of the Irish public failed to recognise that someone experiencing flu-like symptoms needed to self-isolate.

While almost 88pc understood that someone with a fever or dry cough should self-isolate, this fell to 49pc for less common symptoms of Covid-19, such as a sore throat or aches and pains.

The study, conducted during April, presented members of the public with different scenarios.

People were more likely to say that someone who was asymptomatic but had been in contact with a suspected case of Covid-19 should self-isolate, than someone with flu-like symptoms who had not had such contact.

Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI's behavioural research unit, said that while understanding in relation to primary symptoms was good, the message about less common symptoms had not yet been fully absorbed.

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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