21 more patients with COVID-19 have died

HSE focusing on scaling up testing
  • Deborah Condon

A further 21 patients with COVID-19 have died in the Republic, bringing the total number of deaths here to 158.

Seven more people with COVID-19 have also died in Northern Ireland, bringing its total number of deaths to 63, and bringing the all-Ireland total to 221.

The 21 deaths in the Republic involved 12 males and nine females and their average age was 81.

Seventeen of the deaths were located in the east of the country, two in the south and two in the west.

Some 390 new cases were also confirmed today, bringing the total number of cases here to 4,994.

According to the Department of Health's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, this past week "has proven that the nation is working hard together by staying at home to flatten the curve".

Meanwhile earlier today, the head of the HSE, Paul Reid, said that a major focus of this week has been "strengthening the capacity of our laboratories to improve our throughput on completed tests".

"We are in a position this week to scale up to 4,500 tests (per day) in our laboratories, and reopen some of those community test centres that we had to scale back for a period of time," he said.

Laboratories had only been carrying out 2,000-2,500 tests per day, and towards the end of last week, this had been reduced to 1,500 tests per day. The issue was the supply of reagent, which is the substance needed for the laboratory analysis of tests.

As a result of this, a number of tests were sent to a laboratory in Germany last week, and it is now completing 2,000 tests per day for Ireland.

Mr Reid also addressed concerns about the suitability of personal protective equipment (PPE), which had arrived from China last week.

He said that this first batch is just 10% of the entire order from China, and 65% of it has been identified as suitable for use. Another 15% is considered acceptable for use by healthcare workers "if the preferred product is not available".

However, 20% of the batch cannot be used as it does not meet requirements for "general healthcare use".

Mr Reid said the HSE has been in discussion with the supplier about the issues with this order and the supplier "has been cooperating with us this week since we identified this particular issue".

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 fever, a persistent cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

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.

New restrictions in relation to COVID-19 are now in place until April 12. Until then, everybody is being asked to stay at home, except in specific circumstances. These include:
-Travelling to and from work in circumstances where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home
-To shop for essential food and household goods
-To attend medical appointments
-For vital family reasons, such as caring for children or elderly people
-To take brief individual exercise within your locality, which may include children from your household, however this should be within 2km of your home.

All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household or living unit are prohibited.

Those over the age of 70 and medically vulnerable people are also being cocooned. For more information on this, click here.

ALONE, the organisation that supports older people to age at home, is running a national support line for older people facing difficulties due to COVID-19. The support line is open every day from 8am to 8pm, call 0818 222 024.

For more information on COVID-19, click here.

*Pictured is the HSE's COVID-19 testing centre at Croke Park, Dublin


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