Ireland yesterday suffered its deadliest toll yet from the coronavirus pandemic as a record 77 people who were positive for the infection lost their lives.
The tragic number dashed hopes the worst days of the crisis may be over amid growing fears people are becoming increasingly complacent about following restrictive measures.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who announced the figures for deaths from the virus yesterday, said they need to be interpreted with caution as they represent notifications of people dying over a number of days and there can be a time-lag involved.
Each death is a tragedy but there can be a delay in notifications and the percentage increase rate in deaths as well as admissions to intensive care in a given day has been falling, he added.
However, the deaths bring the overall toll of people who have lost their lives to 687.
Of the additional deaths announced, 67 were in the east of the country, four were in the west, four were in the north-west and two were in the south of the country.
The Department of Health's head of social care, Dr Kathleen MacLellan, said there were 1,761 cases of the coronavirus in long-stay residential settings, including 1,204 cases in nursing homes.
Among deaths, some 406 have been in long-term settings and 337 were among nursing home residents.
Overall, another 401 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed yesterday, pushing the total number of people infected here so far to 15,652.
The figures come as a sharp reminder of the threat of the virus as concerns grow that people are getting more restless to ease the restrictions as the May 5 date for the end of the current lockdown looms.
Dr Holohan warned: "For now there is no room for complacency. There is no room to take the foot off the gas."
The major fear is that with an expected relaxation in measures after May 5 people will interpret it as a signal that they can resume get-togethers as well as other activities which would potentially accelerate the spread of the virus.
Dr Holohan said no decision yet has been taken on whether to reopen schools, despite comments over the weekend by Health Minister Simon Harris that they could return for one day a week if public health experts advise it is safe to do so.
He also said it was pub owners themselves who said as the crisis escalated that they had no choice but to close because of physical distancing.
The very nature of a public setting which involves people socialising in close proximity meant this was not possible, he added.
He said nursing homes and long-term residential facilities are now a priority for coronavirus testing.
"In facilities with an existing cluster, all residents and staff are to be tested. In the event of a facility reporting its first case, testing of all staff and residents will take place," he said.
"This sector remains a priority along with other vulnerable persons, and we will continue to implement supports and guidance on infection prevention control where required.
"We know from international and domestic experience that this disease disproportionately targets vulnerable groups such as older people and those with underlying health conditions.
"But we also know that the Irish experience in relation to deaths in nursing homes is not an outlier in relation to the European experience.
"We continue in our efforts to support our population through this pandemic."
In early March we watched as coronavirus cases emerged, many related to travel from affected regions. Anxiety grew and concerns were voiced. When community acquired transmission was confirmed alarm bells were ringing.