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Avoid socialising this weekend amid coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister warns

A third person died in the Republic on Thursday.

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An infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases (Brian Lawless/PA)

An infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases (Brian Lawless/PA)

An infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Health Minister has warned people not to socialise this weekend and insisted social distancing will save thousands of lives.

A third person who contracted Covid-19 died in the Republic on Thursday, and 191 new confirmed cases took the total to 557.

Speaking in the Seanad on Friday, he said: “Doctors will save hundreds of lives during this crisis but the people of Ireland can save thousands.

“This is not a weekend for socialising. We must tell children this is not like the summer holidays so they should not gather in large groups.

“As we come into the weekend, have a conversation with your partner and family and ask them are there ways we can go for a walk and social distance?

New coronavirus cases in Ireland
(PA Graphics)

“I am worried about the mental health of our nation. I am inundated with offers of help and solidarity from around the country and I understand this is all people are speaking about.

“I am conscious that when people listen to politicians speaking about Covid-19, that a lot of it can worry older people. I want to re-assure them today; no matter what happens in the coming weeks you will not be left alone. We will come together.”

Tanaiste Simon Coveney also urged people to take social distancing seriously as it can save thousands of lives.

He said: “Social distancing matters. It is not a theory, it is a protection and we need to confront our families and our peers and our communities to make sure everybody takes that seriously. If we do we will save lives, thousands of them.”

It comes as Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid warned the country faces an “an uncertain, unprecedented and unpredictable” time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, he said: “It is a war against a very silent and dangerous enemy. It is not one we can win with armed forces. It is one that we can win with communities.”

Paul Reid, CEO of the Health Service Executive, gives an update in Dublin
Paul Reid, CEO of the Health Service Executive, gives an update in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Reid said the country must look after people who are well and those who are sick during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our focus in the HSE is obviously to look after the sick but as a society we do need to make sure that we look after the vulnerable and the well, because this is a challenging time for everybody.

“The biggest thing I have learned in my career is the power of social communities, how they mobilise and how effective they can be.

“It certainly has been demonstrated to me in the past few weeks the one thing that distinguishes us from other European countries is the power of our communities when we mobilise.”

Mr Reid said there will be no need to worry about the number of ICU beds if the public adheres to health guidelines.

“We need to avoid the public shifting to debate on ICU care. We will avoid that if public can win that battle if we can ask them what we ask them to do.”

PA