Measures requiring incoming travelers to self-isolate for two weeks are still under consideration, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has insisted, despite the Government stopping short of introducing it on Friday.
While the Government has made the completion of a passenger locator form a statutory requirement, it has not introduced a 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers, as the UK has done and the National Public Health Emergency team (NPHET) recommended.
Dr Holohan said “more has to be done” to prepare for such a measure. The passenger locator form, which requires travelers to say where they will be during their stay in Ireland, is “a first step but not necessarily the last”.
NPHET had discussed measures that could be taken to ease the burden on children resulting from restrictions but said it would not be “helpful” to go into specifics for now, he told a briefing on Friday.
Minister for Health Simon Harris had earlier indicated supports targeted on children with special needs will be introduced over the summer. NPHET will draw up special guidance on children as preparations are made for the reopening of schools, he indicated.
The deaths of another 11 patients with Covid-19 have been reported by NPHET. There have now been a total of 1,592 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic.
A total of 115 new laboratory confirmed cases of the disease was reported by NPHET at its daily briefing on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 24,506.
Of the deaths that have occurred so far, 41.2 per cent were in a hospital environment and 4.7 per cent were in ICU. The proportion of fatalities with underlying conditions is 86.9 per cent.
A total of 797 women and 795 men diagnosed with the disease have died. The median age of deaths is 84 years and the mean is 82.
The number of outbreaks in meat processing plants now stands at 16, and the number of cases involved has increased from 828 a week ago to 865 now. The number of workers hospitalized rose from 16 to 17.
The rate of increase of outbreaks appears to be decreasing, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said.
Dr Holohan said NPHET would continue to work next week on the rollout of a national testing plan. This would include serological testing though, he added, “we don’t yet have a good enough serological test”.
The percentage of people exposed to Covid-19 appears from international studies to be quite low, and not enough to have an impact on the progression of the disease, he said. That meant if we had a further wave of infection in Ireland, it would behave exactly the same way it did before we ever had a case here.
Given the transmissibility of the disease and the fact there is no background immunity in the population, we would have to rely on other measures such as respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene to prevent its spread, he said.
Asked whether it would be possible to accelerate the planned easing of restrictions, Dr Holohan said the current roadmap was the right one “based on current understanding”.
There are now a total of 6,325 cases of the disease associated with residential care settings, including 4,919 in nursing homes.
There have been 992 deaths associated with residential care facilities, or 62.3 per cent of the total.
The vast majority of people were complying with public health advice, Dr Holohan said. Asked about large gatherings of people, he said it was “unfortunate” and was one of the things he did not want to see happening.
Asked about access for Irish people to vaccines when developed, Dr Holohan said we need to prepare now for their development and Ireland was working with international bodies in this respect. “We would be very keen to find ways to participate in trials for new drugs and for vaccines.”
An analysis of cases up to Wednesday shows 57 per cent are female and 43 per cent are male. The number of healthcare worker cases now stands at 7,791, 32 per cent of the total.
The Covid-19 illness rate in the Irish population is 15.3 per 100,000, Dr Holohan said.
Of those who have died, 47.5 per cent did not have an underlying condition.
Some 21.4 per cent had one underlying condition, 7.9 per cent had two and 3.8 per cent had three.
Chronic heart disease was an underlying condition in 39.8 per cent of deaths, 49.7 per cent of intensive care admissions, 35.8 per cent of hospitalizations and 14.3 per cent of cases.
Some 16.5 per cent of those who died had diabetes, 13 per cent had a neurological condition, and 13 per cent had cancer.
Three further coronavirus-related deaths were reported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland on Friday.
It brings the total number of deaths recorded by the department to 504.
A further 23 positive cases of coronavirus were identified in the last 24 hours, out of a total of 1,178 people who were tested.
In total, 43,732 individuals have been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak began in the North, and 4,504 have tested positive.
Separately, it has emerged that just over half of the coronavirus-related deaths in the North in the week ending May 15th occurred in care homes, according to data released on Friday by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
Of the 61 deaths related to Covid-19 that week, 32 (52.5 per cent) were in care homes, 27 were in hospital, one was in a hospice and one was at a residential address.
It is the fourth week that there have been more deaths in care homes than in hospitals in Northern Ireland. However, the number of care-home fatalities has fallen for the second week in a row.
According to the statistics agency, there were 664 deaths involving coronavirus until the week ending May 15th. This is 40 per cent more than the number recorded by the North’s Department of Health in their daily statistical bulletin, which reported 472 deaths in the same period.
Of the 664 fatalities recorded by the statistics agency, 322 (48.5 per cent) took place in hospital and 303 (45.6 per cent) in care homes. There were also six deaths in hospices and 33 at residential addresses or other locations.
The 309 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 76 different establishments.
As of Thursday there were active coronavirus outbreaks in 71 care homes in the North, according to the department, and 36 had been resolved.