| 8.9°C Dublin

Health workers among latest cases as positive tests up to 90

  • Two infected through community transmission

  • Hospitals put surgery on hold as A&Es struggle

Close

Graffiti on the window of a bar in Dublin city centre reminding people to wash their hands

Graffiti on the window of a bar in Dublin city centre reminding people to wash their hands

PA

Graffiti on the window of a bar in Dublin city centre reminding people to wash their hands

Four healthcare workers are among the latest group of 20 people to be diagnosed with the new coronavirus.

Two of the new cases also picked up the virus through community transmission and did not know the source.

It highlights how the virus is now circulating more in the community, as the population faces into the first weekend of strict new measures on social distancing behaviours aimed at slowing its spread.

Six of the cases were infected abroad and eight others got it from a confirmed case, bringing the number of infections in the Republic to 90 so far.

The first analysis by the HSE shows that, until now, the south of the country has borne the brunt of infection.

Most of those are in 55-63 age bracket, followed by people between 34 and 44. Smaller numbers of people aged 45-54 and 15-24 have been struck by the virus.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed the criteria for testing has been updated to include anyone with a new fever of 38C or more, or chills.

Other symptoms could include respiratory tract infection with a cough.

He also said people returning to Ireland from the list of at-risk countries, including Italy and Spain, should restrict their movements for 14 days, even if they feel well, which means they cannot go back to work.

Travel restriction for healthcare workers will be considered by the Department of Health's expert group, he added.

More laboratories around the country are to start testing for the virus next week.

Swabs

Several GPs have highlighted delays in getting through to public health doctors in the HSE, who they must refer patients to before a decision is made on whether to test them.

The HSE said it will have 12 testing centres across the country, where patients can come to provide swabs for testing.

Dr Colm Henry, of the HSE, said the aim was to identify as many people as possible who have the virus .

He said the impact could be reduced by 30pc if positive cases were identified, people with the virus maintained self-isolation and followed the guidelines on social distancing.

The number of people attending emergency departments has fallen, including patients over 75, leading to a big drop in patients on trolleys.

However, several hospitals are continuing to curtail surgery and outpatient clinics in order to cope with the demands of the virus.

The Mater Hospital said it will be moving all fracture clinics to the Mater Smithfield Rapid Injury Clinic, starting from next Wednesday.

"We are taking these actions in order to preserve and prioritise emergency care and care for those with Covid-19 during these unprecedented times," it said.

"The Mater Hospital regrets the impact that this will have on our patients but these new arrangements are necessary in order to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

"Our staff are working extremely hard to deal with the virus and to care for all patients currently at the Mater Hospital.

"We are continuing to employ all infection control measures and every effort is being made by our staff to manage and control the spread of the virus.

"Visitor restrictions remain in place for public and patient safety."

The only visitors who are allowed on campus are those who are visiting patients who are in critical care, vulnerable young adults, or those whose loved-ones are receiving end-of-life care.

"No children are permitted to visit the hospital under any circumstances," added a spokesperson.

Hospital waiting lists figures show 558,554 patients were waiting for a first hospital outpatient appointment in February, up from 553,434 in January.

Women in labour with suspected coronavirus will be required to remain in the car outside the National Maternity Hospital until given personal protective equipment.

Patients, including those in active labour, are asked to ring ahead, park outside the entrance of the hospital and beep the horn to alert the medical staff of their arrival.

Those who feel they may be carrying the coronavirus are expressly requested not to enter the hospital without being triaged in the car first.

Professor Shane Higgins, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, said he and his team would continue to work tirelessly to provide safe maternity care in what is an unprecedented public health challenge.

DublinTown warned that firms dependent on face-to-face trade in the city centre are experiencing sharp declines in footfall - in no small part because many of the city's 250,000 workers have begun to work remotely.

Meanwhile, AIB has scrapped plans to introduce a fee for contactless payments, until the Covid-19 outbreak is over.