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Medical and GP cards renewed automatically to ease worries

  • 16 more deaths as fall in cases sees under 100 in intensive care

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Health Minister Simon Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris

Thousands of people covered by a medical card or GP visit card will have them automatically renewed for a year during the coronavirus crisis.

It means that those whose card comes up for renewal will not have to worry about completing an updated application with the HSE.

The move comes amid growing concern about the health needs of patients who do not have Covid-19 and fears about the impact on waiting lists as well as the reluctance to seek medical care during the crisis.

The medical card and GP visit cards will reduce any financial disincentive for people on lower incomes to contact their doctor.

Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the automatic renewal yesterday and said: "I know this is a worrying time for everybody.

"We have made the decision to extend eligibility to ensure people do not lose their medical card or their GP visit card during this time.

"I hope this will make things a bit easier when things are tough enough. I also hope this will ensure people continue to access care beyond Covid."

Sixteen more deaths from the virus were announced by the Department of Health yesterday, bringing the to 1,319.

An additional 266 newly confirmed cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed, signalling a downturn that has seen the daily growth fall to around 2pc for the past eight days.

So far, 21,772 people have caught the virus in Ireland.

The number of seriously ill patients in intensive care units is 93, plus 20 suspected cases also in ICU.

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Ollie, Sam and Max Mitchell enjoy the fine bank holiday Monday weather with a break from home at Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Ollie, Sam and Max Mitchell enjoy the fine bank holiday Monday weather with a break from home at Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Ollie, Sam and Max Mitchell enjoy the fine bank holiday Monday weather with a break from home at Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Fragile

Overall, around 900 patients who have the virus are ill enough to be treated in hospital.

This prompted Mr Harris to describe the overall situation as "fragile", despite plans to begin the gradual unwinding of the lockdown in two weeks.

HSE infection control experts said they are not recommending using gloves while doing shopping or when out and about.

Prof Martin Cormican, HSE lead on infection control and antibiotic use, said: "A lot of people are using disposable gloves in everyday life.

"One of our key messages is that we do not recommend using gloves while doing your shopping or when you are out and about.

"If there are bugs on your gloves, those often end up on your hands when you take the gloves off, and from there they can very easily end up in your mouth, nose and eyes.

"It's much better to clean your hands regularly and properly.

"Even in special settings such as hospitals, where gloves are valuable, there is still a need to perform hand hygiene when the gloves come off.

"In hospitals, gloves are single use for single patient care tasks."

Prof Cormican was speaking on World Hand Hygiene Day.

He said: "Most years when it comes around, we wonder how we will find a fresh way to talk to people about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection.

"This year it is all very different. Preventing infection with Covid-19 is now on everyone's mind."

People aged over 70 and those whose health leaves them at increased risk are advised they can go for a daily walk from today.

However, the charity Alone said the Government should consider the long-term detrimental effect cocooning is having on the physical and mental health of older people.

Suicidal

Last week, Alone released figures relating to older people's mental health as a result of the pandemic, with increases in callers to its helpline expressing suicidal thoughts.

"Alone has noted that the long-term physical health and well-being of older people is also being affected, with cocooning measures preventing older people living in the community from staying active, accessing home support and attending medical appointments," it said.

Enda Egan, of Inclusion Ireland, which represents families of people with an intellectual disability, also welcomed clarification in Department of Health guidelines on the care of disabled people during the pandemic.

Earlier documents caused concern that some might face difficulty getting life-saving treatment based on frailty scales.

"As should always be the case, this supplementary document states people with disabilities should not be discriminated against when it comes to accessing healthcare, up to and including intensive care," he said.

"It is reassuring that the minister and the department have provided this written clarity regarding access to treatment.

"There were many people with intellectual disabilities and their families who were very concerned with the previous wording in documents and the absence of consideration for the rights of persons with disabilities within them."