The number of outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes in the State has jumped to 38, according to the latest figures from the HSE.
The vast majority of clusters detected in nursing homes (29), are in the east; three each in the midwest and north-east, two are in the west and one in the midlands, according to the epidemiological report from the executive. A Covid-19 cluster is defined by the HSE as two laboratory-positive cases in an institution.
Main points in Covid-19 pandemic on Friday
- Central Bank warns of €22bn hole in public finances from coronavirus crisis
- Ireland reports 13 new fatalities and 402 new cases
- Global confirmed cases pass one million
- Ireland has a strategy to ‘break the chains’ of coronavirus, says WHO
- Irish citizens stranded on coronavirus ship off US to be repatriated
Concern is growing about the impact of the virus on nursing homes with Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for health Stephen Donnelly stating that almost 100 staff members and residents in one nursing home have tested positive.
The situation in nursing homes was “very, very serious,” Mr Donnelly said.
“The nursing homes can’t get the staff that they need. They can’t get their hands on personal protective equipment either. They are getting very, very small amounts and it is not enough,” he added.
A surge in coronavirus cases has already hit nursing homes and is expected to hit hospitals in the next week or two, the president of the association of emergency medicine has said.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland Dr Emily O’Conor said she expects the surge will arrive in hospitals the next week or two and said the surge is being experienced “in nursing homes now”.
At the Government’s Friday morning briefing, Liz Cavanan of the Department of an Taoiseach said some home help hours have been stood down for those who are relatively well and have adequate family support.
These supports are being moved towards more urgent needs such as long term residential care.
Friday’s epidemiological report states there are also 31 clusters that originated in private houses and 29 in hospitals. Another 21 are travel-related and 11 are in residential institutions.
The report shows two people aged 25-34 years who were diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, along with one each in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups.
There have been six fatalities in the 55-64 age group and 81 among people aged 65 and over.
Of the 3,282 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19, 91 had died up to Tuesday evening, giving a case fatality rate of 2.77 per cent.
While women slightly outnumber men among confirmed cases, the number of male deaths greatly exceeds deaths among women.
Meanwhile, infectious disease specialist Professor Sam McConkey has said nobody knows how long the lockdown will last, but so far he thinks the country is doing a good job of stopping the spread of Covid-19.
Prof McConkey pointed out that in China restrictions were lifted after 64 days, but he questioned if the level of physical distancing in Ireland was as good as that in China.
“They did a lot of things (in China) that we cannot,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
The rate of spread of the virus in Ireland has slowed down, he said. He had been alarmed three weeks ago, but now the country was managing the numbers. If the numbers are not maintained at this level then more measures will have to be taken to slow interaction.
“So far we are doing a good job I think.”
At a briefing on Thursday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said 13 new fatalities bring the total to 98.
A further 402 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland as of lunchtime on Thursday bring the total figure to 3,849.
Globally, total cases of Covid-19 reached over one million, and more than 51,000 people have died so far. The US has the highest number of cases, 236,339, while Italy remains the worst-affected by the outbreak, with 13,915 deaths.
Flattening the curve
In Ireland, cases of Covid-19 are growing at a rate of 10 per cent a day – a sharp reduction from earlier growth rates, which were about 33 per cent. “We have flattened the curve,” chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Thursday. “But we need to flatten it further.”
While there is some optimism in Government that the shutdown of commercial and social life is succeeding in slowing the spread of the virus, Dr Holohan said there needed to be further progress to avoid a situation in which the number of people requiring intensive care outstrips available beds.
On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergencies programme Mike Ryan said Ireland is doing a good job in setting out the kind of strategy required to “break the chains” of coronavirus.
“We can reach control of this virus. We may not get rid of it completely but we can reach a point where we can control the virus and with it we can get our economies and social systems back on track,” he said.
“In order for that to happen we have to use the time now that lockdowns are providing to put in place those comprehensive strategies and I think Ireland is doing a pretty good job at that right now.”
Meanwhile the HSE has admitted some elements of the first batch of personal protection equipment (PPE) imported from China this week “are not ideal” and suppliers are being notified of this – with the view to issues being resolved with subsequent orders.
“Any issues identified in the first batch received during this week are being fed back to be addressed in subsequent orders. Some elements of the first batch are not ideal but may be usable if an alternative supply is not available,” a HSE spokeswoman said.
The Central Bank has warned that the crisis is likely to blow a €22 billion hole in the State’s finances and could see half a million people losing their jobs.
In its latest quarterly bulletin, published on Friday, it says lost tax revenue and increased spending on various support schemes will see the exchequer move from a €2.2 billion surplus to a €19.6 billion deficit this year.
It predicts the crisis will lead to the loss of up to 500,000 jobs as the economy shrinks by 8.3 per cent.
Exchequer returns, also published by the Department of Finance on Thursday, showed that tax receipts for the first quarter of 2020 were €800 million lower than expected, primarily due to a collapse in VAT returns.
Speaking on Friday morning, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that “many different scenarios” are being examined to accelerate the recovery of the economy when the Covid-19 crisis has passed.
Mr Donohoe told Newstalk Breakfast it would be important to reboot and create a new economy after the crisis.
“It is very clear that we can create a new economy and the country can recover from this,” he said.
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