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Death toll passes 600 as testing to be widened to those with no symptoms

  • 39 lost their lives to Covid yesterday

  • 3,500 new staff being hired by HSE

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HSE Director General Paul Reid during a briefing on the Covid-19 crisis at the O’Brien Centre for Science in UCD

HSE Director General Paul Reid during a briefing on the Covid-19 crisis at the O’Brien Centre for Science in UCD

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

HSE Director General Paul Reid during a briefing on the Covid-19 crisis at the O’Brien Centre for Science in UCD

The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the Republic has now passed the 600 mark.

Fatalities grew by 39 yesterday, bringing the total number of Covid-19-related deaths to 610, according to the latest figures published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

A total of 37 deaths were located in the east, with two in the west of the country.

There are now a total of 15,251 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

The HSE is working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread, it said.

Emerged

The most up-to-date figures show that of those hospitalised, 303 cases have been admitted to intensive care.

Dublin has the highest number of cases at 7,379, representing 51pc of all cases.

The median age of those who died is 83, according to the statistics.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that people who currently display no symptoms of the coronavirus but who have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive for the infection, are expected to be added to groups eligible for testing over the coming two weeks.

The change is part of a move to broaden the range of people who are tested in a bid to capture a wider picture of the spread of the virus.

It comes as the country moves towards easing lockdown measures on May 5.

As knowledge of the virus has progressed, it has emerged a significant percentage of people who have it do not have obvious symptoms.

Currently only people who have symptoms of the virus after being in contact with a person who has been confirmed as positive for Covid-19 are being tested.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said yesterday that 60pc of laboratory tests for coronavirus are carried out in Ireland while the remainder are analysed in Germany.

Around 11,500 swabs were taken from people who were categorised as being in a priority group suspected of having the infection last week.

The number of labs doing tests has risen to 27 and these include labs in hospitals, the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the Enfer laboratories.

Some 150,000 reagents for testing from a Chinese supplier have been passed as being up to the required standard.

This week will be spent building up the testing in preparation for the easing of lockdown.

It will be essential to have real-time surveillance of the spread of the virus if measures are relaxed.

Referring to the recruitment of workers who responded to the recent call by the HSE, Mr Reid said they were in the process of taking on around 3,500 staff.

These are made up of 1,500 people who responded to the recent advertisement for workers and another 1,900 people who were already in various stages of being hired.

They include 345 nurses, 280 doctors, and around 280 healthcare assistants.

Piracy

Meanwhile, Mr Reid likened personal protective equipment (PPE) to "gold dust" and said that internationally there are tactics equivalent to a form of "modern-day piracy" in the sourcing and purchasing of these items.

It means that countries are outbidding each other in a desperate competition to secure supplies.

Hospitals and nursing homes will have to use it "prudently", he said.

Another shipment arrived here from China over the weekend and future orders are being accelerated, according to Mr Reid.