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'Don't get complacent', warn health chiefs as death toll passes 1,000

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Tony Holohan said we still have ‘a lot of progress to make’

Tony Holohan said we still have ‘a lot of progress to make’

Colin Keegan

Tony Holohan said we still have ‘a lot of progress to make’

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of five healthcare workers and 547 people living in community residential settings - including 488 residents of nursing homes.

The fatalities are among 1,014 laboratory confirmed deaths from the virus here, marking a significant landmark in the numbers succumbing to the disease since the crisis began.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned again yesterday that progress made in suppressing the virus here is in danger if too many people flout rules to restrict their movements.

He pointed to evidence of a rise in road traffic, use of public transport and outdoor activity.

Temptation

Earlier, it emerged that Dublin Bus is the latest to report a rise in daily passenger numbers with around 59,000 using its services on Wednesday - a rise of 6,000 on the same day on the three previous weeks.

"We are concerned there is more complacency," Dr Holohan said.

"I can understand the public has been asked to stay so long with measures that are hard to maintain. The weather is nice and the temptation is there.

"We have talked a lot about May 5 and there may be an assumption on the part of the public that things will change then but we still have a lot of progress to make if we are to satisfy the important criteria to recommend to Government that on public health terms it is time to do that.

"It will be on the basis of how far we have gone that we will make a recommendation to Government next week."

He said the National Public Health Emergency Team will not be ready to say if it is possible to ease restrictions after May 5 until as late as next Friday, when a review of the impact of the virus will be taken.

It was decided yesterday to change the testing criteria for priority groups, including healthcare workers and people with underlying illness, who may have the virus.

Instead of requiring two symptoms - a fever plus shortage or breath or sudden cough - GPs will now be able to refer people in these groups who have just one symptom after assessing them over the phone.

This will increase the numbers of people being tested for the virus and it is still unclear if labs will be able to cope.

Dr Holohan reported there were 37 more laboratory confirmed deaths yesterday and a further 124 probable deaths.

He said there is likely to be more deaths among people who did not have the virus but failed to seek medical attention on time.

Another 577 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, bringing the total who have tested positive so far to 18,184.

Among these are 3,277 people living in residential centres, including 2,500 nursing home residents.

The testing of all staff and residents in these centres, which began last weekend, has led to 707 positive cases.

Dr Ronan Glynn said that 3,830 healthcare workers have tested positive so far and 159 have been hospitalised.

24 ended up severely ill and were admitted to intensive care, and five have died.

Previous statistics show around one in four healthcare workers picked up the infection in the workplace.

Dangerous

Asked to comment on suggestions by US President Donald Trump that scientists should investigate injecting disinfectants into the body to cure the virus, Dr Holohan said that would be "really unsafe and dangerous".

"That would be a very unsafe thing to do. President Trump is not a doctor and the advice is don't do it," he added.

Meanwhile, clinical adviser to the HSE Dr Colm Henry told yesterday's briefing that around 120 public health workers have now been redeployed to private nursing homes struggling to cope with staff shortages due to the coronavirus.

He said an agreement is being signed to provide thousands of homecare hours by HSE-funded staff to the private homes.