Irish backstop –
A healthcare worker has died after contracting coronavirus in the Republic.
The Irish Times has learned that the healthcare worker worked in the east of the country, and the death marks the first of a healthcare worker in the State during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday it was confirmed another three people had died of coronavirus in the the State, bringing the total number of deaths to 22.
In relation to the three latest deaths one person died in the north-west of the country and two females died in the east.
The number of new confirmed cases of the disease surged to 302 on Friday, the highest daily total recorded so far.
At a briefing at Government Buildings on Friday night, where further sweeping restrictions on social and commercial life were announced in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris paid tribute to the healthcare worker who died.
There are now 2,121 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the State, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said in a statement.
Up to last Wednesday, 419 patients had been hospitalised with the disease, it said, and 59 of these had been admitted to ICU.
Some 23 per cent of cases are associated with healthcare workers.
The median age of confirmed cases is 46 years, and the cases break down 54 per cent/46 per cent between men and women.
Dublin has the highest number of cases with 922 – 56 per cent of the total on Wednesday – followed by Cork with 171.
Community transmission now accounts for 52 per cent of cases, close contacts for 22 per cent and travel abroad for 26 per cent.
The Government meanwhile is set to announce further restrictive measures to ramp up the State’s response to Covid-19 later this Friday evening.
The measures are expected to address a number of areas, including work at non-essential workplaces such as building sites and public transport. They may also include further restrictions on people’s movement designed to curb the spread of the virus.
The exact package of measures is still being worked on, but is expected to be announced this evening.
The normal daily briefing by the National Public Health Emergency Team is being replaced by a press conference hosted by the Department of the Taoiseach, it is understood.
This will be the third set of restrictive measures introduced by the Government this month, and comes as the number of coronavirus cases is beginning to surge.
Earlier the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said ICU beds will be at capacity in a number of days and he will be surprised if the overall death toll in Ireland as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak remains below 1,000.
Mr Varadkar said on Friday the death toll was impossible to predict because the virus was a new one and scientists were still learning about it.
“Take the average flu season in Ireland. There would be roughly 500 deaths. If you had a bad flu season in Ireland you would have roughly 1,000 deaths.
“So it would be a surprise and a very pleasant surprise if the number of deaths at the end of it was less than 1,000,” he said.
He said that those most at risk from coronavirus, like the flu were older people and those with underlying conditions.
Asked if he was concerned about Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission rates, Mr Varadkar said while there are empty beds in ICU at present that situation would change over the next few days and the situation would become “very difficult”.
“Just the way things are heading indicate that ICU will be at capacity in a number of days,” he said.
“That’s already the case around Europe. It may happen here. We have to plan for that. We need to make sure we have capacity, ventilators all of those things.
“All of that is happening. An unprecedented effort is being made by the health service to tool up, to recruit, to provide additional capacity.
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“Just as we are seeing in Europe and in America, as we saw in China, there is not a health service in the world that will be able to tool up or scale up as quickly as is necessary.
“We are going to be managing a very difficult situation and everybody will be doing the best they can.”
Asked about government formation, Mr Varadkar said it would not be possible in the current difficult climate to form a coalition involving only Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Independents. He said a third party was absolutely necessary.
Asked about the decision by the Green Party not to partake in such talks, he said: “We are willing to talk to the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and Independents about participation in government.
“The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that any government that is formed will need to have a functioning and working majority in the Dáil.
“Any decisions that are going to be taken in the next couple of months and years to get the country moving again are not going to be easy, are not going to be popular. We are not going to be offering people incentives or concessions or constituencies to come on board.
“All we are offering people who are willing to form a government is endless effort, constant criticism, disappointment from (the people).
Mr Varadkar was speaking at Total Produce in Swords, Co Dublin. He described the food distribution company, and others like it, as one of the essential components of the food supply chain and said all who worked there were essential workers.
Asked about confirmation earlier on Friday by British prime minister Boris Johnson that he had tested positive for Covid-19 he said he wished the prime minister well in his recovery.
Mr Johnson’s health secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive for the virus.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said he is self-isolating at home after experiencing symptoms compatible with coronavirus.
He said that construction work on sites during the pandemic would continue saying that some parts of the sector were “absolutely essential”. He instanced health facilities but added that so too “arguably” was housing for homeless people.
He said that social distancing might not be done perfectly on some sites but it was not being done perfectly in supermarkets and other places. He said the important point was that it needed to be done to an acceptable level.
Meanwhile three more people have died in Northern Ireland as a result of the Covid-19 emergency bringing the total number of deaths there to 13, the North’s Public Health Agency said on Friday afternoon.
The PHA added that testing has resulted in 34 new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland to 275.
Anne O’Connor, chief operations officer at the HSE, said on Thursday night the coronavirus pandemic has not yet peaked in Ireland.
“We don’t believe that we have peaked. We’re certainly working towards a peak in possibly mid-April or the second week in April. But, again the modelling is very early,” she said.
“We have been planning for deaths and for people becoming very ill. It hasn’t happened as quickly, possibly as we initially expected, but it is something we have been planning for,” she told RTÉ’s Prime Time.
Revenue chairman Niall Cody said more than 11,000 employers have now applied for the new subsidy to help them pay wages during the crisis. Some €5.4 million was due to be paid into employers accounts on Friday afternoon on foot of some of these applications, he told RTÉ’s News at One.
The head of the International Monetary Fund on Friday underscored the importance of strong containment measures to get control of the coronavirus pandemic, and to lay the groundwork for a strong recovery in 2021.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told CNBC that the global community was coming together to respond to the crisis with strong fiscal measures, and the response had been greater than during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
But she warned against stepping away from containment efforts too soon, adding, “There is no way to come to a strong recovery without strong containment.”
Correction (March 31st, 2020)
An earlier version of this article said wrongly that the first healthcare worker had died in the Covid-19 outbreak, a nurse at Tallaght Hospital. The healthcare worker was not a nurse and was not employed in Tallaght Hospital.
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