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Third person dies as cases up by 191 sparking fears for our elderly

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Eoghan Murphy has self-isolated

Eoghan Murphy has self-isolated

Eoghan Murphy has self-isolated

Pensioners are now bearing the brunt of the coronavirus an d are at most risk of being hospitalised as it emerged a minister was self-isolating, a third person had died from the infection and another 191 have tested positive.

The median age of people infected with the virus here is 43 years, but it has emerged that 31 over-65s have been admitted to hospital, the largest of all age groups.

As the overall toll of confirmed cases climbed to 557, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan sent a clear message to younger people.

Distancing

He warned it is up to everyone to act responsibly in exercising social distancing and not endanger older groups and people with underlying illnesses who are at most risk of complications.

"It is too early to see any impact of our social-distancing measures. This data underscores the importance of younger people to rigorously follow public health advice and social distancing measures," he said.

The latest death involved a woman from the east of the country and it is not known if she had an underlying disease.

Dr Holohan said the hope is that the impact of social distancing, which became effective over the past week, will be seen in a slowing of the rate of increase in new cases at the end of the month.

The rate of community transmission - where a person was infected without knowing the source -is now at 35pc.

It had not been anticipated at this stage to impose tougher restrictions on the population to try to slow the spread. Overall, there was good compliance to social distancing here, Dr Holohan said.

Asked if there was any evidence of people who had been to the Cheltenham Festival in England testing positive, he said the new figures would have been due to exposure in the population before the event.

For the most part, people who are not in need of hospital admission are asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

The last five of those have to be without a temperature.

Dublin has the highest number of cases at 172, followed by Cork at 62 and Limerick at 14.

It comes as GPs continue to be deluged with patients reporting symptoms, many of whom are being referred for a test.

However, it can take five days before they get an appointment to provide a swab.

Dr Colm Henry of the HSE said this should ease with the roll-out of more testing centres and a consignment of over 30,000 more testing swabs.

The virus has now spread to all counties except Monaghan.

From midnight on Tuesday when there were 350 cases, 55pc are men and 43pc women, with 26 clusters. One in three were hospitalised and seven have been admitted to intensive care.

Misconception

Health Minister Simon Harris said it was a "misconception that this is a disease that affects older people".

"It's not just about yourself, it's about protecting your mum, your dad, your granny, granddad and vulnerable people."

Healthcare workers accounted for 84 cases and 28 of them picked it up abroad.

Dr Holohan said the rise in cases was as expected and the escalation will continue to be around 30pc. It emerged that a pregnant woman was diagnosed with the virus and gave birth in the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.

The woman who had very mild symptoms was placed in isolation before delivering her baby.

She has since returned home with her newborn.

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is self-isolating as a precaution after he visited family abroad last week.

It is the first known instance of an Irish Government minister being affected by coronavirus.

His spokesman said the Fine Gael TD visited family abroad prior to travel advice to avoid all but essential travel to several countries.

Mr Murphy is maintaining a full schedule and has not been in direct physical contact with any Government colleagues, the spokesman said.

It was not clear if Mr Murphy visited any of the countries most severely affected by the virus.