Doctors have been alerted to a rare but sometimes deadly auto-immune condition among children that could be linked to Covid-19.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed yesterday that seven children in Ireland have been examined for potential signs of the illness since the coronavirus spread.
Children can have symptoms similar to a rare condition called Kawasaki disease, which causes blood vessels throughout the body to swell, leading to extreme pain.
He said the EU watchdog, the European Centre for Disease Control, has issued a rapid alert asking member states to make doctors aware of the multi- system inflammatory syndrome in children.
"There have been 230 suspected cases in Europe and two deaths," Dr Holohan said.
New York has been badly hit, with 85 cases, and a number of confirmed and suspected deaths.
Doctors here should have a high index of suspicion as part of their assessment of a child with potential symptoms.
Dr Holohan was speaking after the Cabinet gave the go-head for the first stage of easing restrictions from Monday.
There were 16 deaths from the virus yesterday, bringing the total to 1,518; 129 people were diagnosed with the virus, making 23,956 cases of infection here so far.
Asked if he believed people would be tempted to stretch the rules as the first easing of the lockdown was rolled out, Dr Holohan warned against inviting groups of friends and neighbours to a barbecue in the garden.
The relaxation of rules allows for a group of up to four who are not from the same household to meet, but it must be outdoors and last a short time and everyone must physically distance.
"We all know the Irish weather. It can rain or get chilly and then everyone goes indoors," Dr Holohan said.
Everyone still has to follow the 5km limit for travel from their home, which includes discretionary activities such as sport.
People were also warned that loosening restrictions will also increase the risk of the spread of the disease.
"This is not risk-free," Dr Holohan said.
He repeated the advice that people can wear face coverings in shops or on public transport, but it is essential that they continue to maintain physical distancing and wash their hands.
Advice issued by the Department of Health states that whether a DIY homemade version or a purchased mask, they need to be washed daily.
People should also not wear disposable gloves instead of washing their hands.
"Disposable gloves work in medical settings. They are not as effective in daily life," said Dr Holohan.
"If you sneeze or cough into the glove, it creates a new surface for the virus to live on."
He signalled that the Nat- ional Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has been discussing the impact of the virus on children's activities, and it is likely there will be a recommendation on this area later in the summer.
However, schools will not return for this academic year.
Earlier yesterday, it emerged that the Mater Hospital is under investigation for an alleged delay in reporting 244 cases of the coronavirus among health staff.
These date back to mid-March but only came to the notice of the Department of Health on Wednesday.
However, the Mater said yesterday it has reported all cases of Covid-19 positive results to the authorities on a daily basis and followed up on all contacts.
The information is fed into a central computer in the HSE, and the investigation is also examining if a fault happened at that point of the process.
At all times the Mater Hospital provided the information the HSE required.
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "It is absolutely clear there is a legal requirement to disclose."