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Coronavirus death toll more than doubles in Ireland

The announcement of ten new deaths – taking the total to 19 – came as TDs debated emergency legislation to deal with the outbreak

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A view of the testing centre on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin where the Naval service personnel are assisting medical staff (PA)

A view of the testing centre on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin where the Naval service personnel are assisting medical staff (PA)

A view of the testing centre on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin where the Naval service personnel are assisting medical staff (PA)

The coronavirus death toll in Ireland has more than doubled after 10 further victims lost their lives to the virus.

A total of 19 people infected with Covid-19 have now died in the country.

The latest update from the National Public Health Emergency Team came on the same night TDs passed emergency coronavirus legislation in the Dail.

The Dail paused business at 8pm to applaud the country’s health workers.

There were similar scenes on streets through the state as people said thanks to the frontline medics dealing with the pandemic in Ireland.

There were 255 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland announced on Thursday evening, bringing the total number of cases to 1,819.

Of the 10 latest victims, three were female and seven were male. Nine were from the east of the country and one in the south.

The median age of the 19 patients who have died is 79 years old.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland should prepare for more deaths.

“We are only at the beginning of the curve,” he said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland cannot stop coronavirus but the nation can work together to “slow it in its tracks”.

Mr Varadkar made the comment during the lengthy Dail debate on a sweeping package of legislation to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

It included measures that aim to prevent evictions and implement a rent freeze throughout the health crisis.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill, which addresses resources within six departments, including housing and health, passed in the Dail close to 10.30pm on Thursday night. It will now be debated in the Seanad on Friday.

The legislation before the Oireachtas aims to protect tenants and includes a 3.7 billion euro aid package that will see the government contribute to wage packets.

The emergency measures are part of a major effort by government to mitigate the social effects of Covid-19 and the economic consequences of the virus.

A reduced number of TDs participated in the marathon session on Thursday, as members followed social-distancing advice by sitting two seats apart.

Mr Varadkar said the emergency legislation is a response to an “unprecedented emergency”.

“Unfortunately we cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back,” he said.

“Our national objective must be to flatten the curve.

“We can succeed if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.”

Mr Varadkar said the amount of time spent planning for Brexit means they are in a better position to deal with major changes.

He added: “The work spent thinking about supply lines, about the impact of a shock to the economy, the money we set aside through prudent management of our finances – all of this is now being deployed against a different kind of national threat.”

He added: “Today’s legislation, to last for the duration of the emergency, will freeze rents, prevent evictions and make it easier for healthcare professionals to re-register and return to work and also enable former members of the Defence Forces to rejoin at the ranks they left.

“The truth is, these are extraordinary times.”

During Thursday’s debate, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the people of Ireland continue to face real fear and uncertainty.

Speaking in the Dail, he added: “To an extent never seen before, people are subject to major personal restrictions which limit their ability to mix with others, look after family members and go to work.

“The measures which we adopted last week and those which we are adopting today are not ones that we would even discuss in normal circumstances.

“But clearly, this unprecedented situation has justified, and will continue to justify, an unprecedented response.”

Mr Martin also said that Ireland needs a government “which can discuss and implement an urgent recovery plan”.

Coronavirus
People walk past a sign encouraging social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

He called for an introduction of “some form of social partnership model”.

He added: “I believe we need a government which can discuss and implement an urgent recovery plan. In doing this, we should certainly look at the introduction of some form of social partnership model.

“This should involve key stakeholders so that there can be real engagement and a true societal response to what will be a plan for our national recovery post-Covid-19.”

TDs raised concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health staff.

It comes after Dr Colm Henry, Health Service Executive chief clinical officer, said they had been facing challenges securing PPE in a “very competitive global market”.

Concerns around safety on construction sites were also raised as some workers struggle to abide by social-distancing rules.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the resources being pumped into healthcare was an opportunity to invest in the system “in every aspect”.

He added: “At a time of this radical and rapid change, it’s a chance for us to invest in a health system to bring it in the direction we want, and that will require investment.

“Similarly, if we have tens of thousands of workers and hundreds of thousands who will be unemployed, we should be looking to really ramping up our public housing programme straight away, as a stimulus to come out of unemployment that may come with this economic downturn.”

PA