Two more patients with COVID-19 (coronavirus) have died in the Republic, bringing the total number of deaths here to nine.
According to the Department of Health, the two people who died were a woman in the east of the country with an underlying health condition and a male in the east of the country.
There have also been 235 new cases of the virus confirmed today, bringing the total number of cases here to 1,564.
Meanwhile, a seventh patient with COVID-19 has died in Northern Ireland and there are now 209 confirmed cases of the virus there.
The latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows that of the 1,164 cases confirmed to it by midnight, March 23, 305 people had been hospitalised and of these, 39 had been admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).
Almost one in four cases overall involved healthcare workers and the average age of confirmed cases was 45 years.
Dublin had the highest number of cases - 559 - which accounted for 57% of all cases in the country.
Speaking after the figures were released, the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, explained why new rules had been introduced in relation to testing for the virus.
"Our data showed yesterday that only 6% of our tests so far returned positive. So for every 100 people we test, we are only finding six people with COVID-19. In light of this, our case definition changed.
"Changing case definition is a standard practice in managing pandemics. Ultimately, we want our 6% detected rate to increase, we want to find as many people as possible with COVID-19, isolate them and contain the spread," he said.
In order to be tested, patients have to display two major symptoms - a fever and either shortness of breath or a cough. They must also fall into a priority group - these are the close contacts of a confirmed case, healthcare staff or vulnerable groups.
"We are seeking to prioritise those who are to be tested with a focus in the short-term on those who are vulnerable and those who are at the highest risk to exposure," commented the department's deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn.
COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature).
COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties. Some 80% of cases will be mild to moderate, 14% will be more severe, while 6% will be critical.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, people should:
-Practice social distancing and avoid crowded places
-Wash their hands properly and often
-Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or cough and sneeze into their elbow
-Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
-Stay at home if they are sick to avoid spread of whatever infection they have.
For more information on COVID-19, click here.
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