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'We are deeply saddened' - despair as 2 hospital workers die of virus

  • 38 more victims as toll rises to 444

  • Youngest patient so far loses life at 23

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Dubliners out for a stroll yesterday using face masks to protect themselves

Dubliners out for a stroll yesterday using face masks to protect themselves

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Dubliners out for a stroll yesterday using face masks to protect themselves

Two health care workers at the same hospital have died of suspected coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

The hospital staff, one male and one female, were both middle-aged and were working until becoming ill.

Staff at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny are understood to be shocked at the deaths.

The woman, aged in her 50s, was a member of the household staff and the man, who was in his 40s, was a health care assistant. They both had children.

"We can confirm two valued staff members have passed away at St Luke's Hospital," a spokesperson for the Ireland East Hospital Group said.

Combat

"We can't comment on individual staff. We are deeply saddened at their passing."

The deceased are believed to be the second and third cases of health service workers dying of Covid-19 in this country.

Meanwhile, any relaxation of lockdown regulations to combat the coronavirus will not be a licence to have a party, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned.

He was speaking as the youngest person to die here from the virus, a 23-year-old patient, was among another 38 people to lose their lives to the infection.

Asked where the first easing of restrictions might take place following the May 5 extension of measures, Dr Holohan said the threat from the virus remained too strong, but if there was room for some reprieve it could not be taken as a signal to hold parties or get togethers.

"If we identify a model for relaxation it may be that we are wrong and we want to pick it up," he said. "It may well lead to other behaviours we don't intend."

He added the fear was that people would see any loosening of the restrictions as a "path to rapid relaxation" and that would be wrong.

All measures are "on the table" for review, but if there is an easing they are likely to have a social, educational and economic benefit.

Asked about the continued recommendation that over-70s cocooners should not go out in public for a walk, even in such beautiful weather, he said he understood their frustration.

However, he added that even if they were fit and without underlying illness, age itself would put them at higher risk of contracting the virus.

It emerged yesterday that because people have managed to slow down the spread of infection by following restrictions, fewer will have caught the virus and got immunity.

That in itself will mean that some restrictions may have to be in place for longer as protection.

The figures yesterday showed that the overall death toll from the disease is now 444 and 245 of the deceased had been residents of nursing homes.

Another 657 cases were detected by Irish laboratories and 411 older tests were found to be positive by a German lab, pushing the total number of people infected here to date to 12,547.

Intensive

The rise in cases is mostly due to more testing of people in hospitals and nursing homes.

Dr Holohan said the next week will be spent on getting the testing system, including contact tracing, in order.

"There is intensive work going on around that," he added.

If there is to be any relaxation of measures the testing and tracing system needs to be at a high standard. The number of patients in intensive care beds has fallen slightly to 158.

So far, 84 patients have been discharged from intensive care - accounting for 29pc of people who needed this high level treatment. However, 43 of the critical care patients have died.

An analysis of cases of the virus, as of last Monday, showed that 52pc of people did not know where they picked up the infection.

Another 42pc were infected through close contact with another person and 6pc picked up the illness while abroad.

Meanwhile, Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, consultant psychiatrist and HSE integrated care lead, said: "There are still concerning reports that attendance to emergency departments is unusually low. This concerns us.

"Everyone should continue to seek medical intervention if concerned about their health.

"Do not ignore symptoms of illness because of fear of contracting Covid-19 or fear of imposition on healthcare staff. The health service is there for everyone."