Ireland has recorded its highest daily toll in the coronavirus outbreak, with 36 deaths reported in 24 hours.
A total of 210 people have died in Ireland so far in the pandemic. There were 345 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported on Tuesday, taking the total to 5,709.
The latest deaths were announced by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan as he expressed concern at reports of more people on the streets, particularly in Dublin, ahead of the Easter holiday weekend.
A two-week lockdown on movement in Ireland – with people only allowed to leave their homes in limited circumstances – is due to end on Sunday.
It is widely anticipated the measures will be extended.
Dr Holohan said it was unlikely that the team would recommend to the Government that the restrictions should be relaxed.
His comments echoed remarks by Health Minister Simon Harris, who earlier on Tuesday said a sudden departure from the current coronavirus restrictions was “highly unlikely”.
Government ministers were briefed on the latest developments on Covid-19 at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Asked about reports of increasing numbers on the streets at the daily media briefing by members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), Dr Holohan said: “I would share the concern that maybe we need to continue to see high levels of compliance with the measures that are in place.
“We’ve reported to you a number of deaths that’s higher than any numbers we’ve given to you previously.
“The disease is still here, it still represents a risk to the population, there is still transmission of this disease happening in a way that gives us concern, the epidemic is growing day on day – albeit at levels lower than it was in the earlier stages – but we’re not at a point yet where we think that we’re ready as a society to step back from the collective effort that we’ve had in place.
“We can understand the effect of the upcoming holidays and bank holiday weekend and good weather and maybe a little bit of fatigue with some of the measures that are in place can have on the population, but I think our message is a clear one – we want people to stay the course with us.
“And we think it’s important that we continue to, as it were, double down on the measures that are in place to really ensure that we can get the most out of the restrictions that are in place, in terms of the extent to which we can interrupt transmission of this virus.”
Mr Holohan also dismissed an academic study in the US that suggested that Ireland may have already experienced the infection peak and that the overall number of deaths could be limited to 400.
“That simply isn’t true, it’s not reliable,” he said.
“That’s not something that people should either listen to or rely upon.”
The chief medical officer said while Dublin was being hardest hit by the disease that was not reason to introduce tighter controls in the city. He said most large cities in Europe had also reported large numbers of cases.
“We think the disease is growing at roughly similar rates in all parts of the country so we don’t think that there would be justification in selectively focusing on Dublin,” he said.
The NPHET will make a formal recommendation to the Government on extending the measures on Friday.
“At this minute in time it doesn’t look likely that we’ll be recommending lifting those restrictions,” said Dr Holohan.
Earlier, Minister Harris said: “We’ll get the formal advice later in the week but I believe in being truthful and honest with people in this regard.
“I think that any kind of sudden departure from the existing restrictions is highly unlikely, particularly when we know they’re working.
“We are not going to do anything as a government that will in any way jeopardise the lives and wellbeing of Irish people. We have got to stay the course.”
More than 850,000 people are claiming unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus crisis which has left many business struggling across Ireland.
Figures show hundreds of thousands of people are receiving the new Covid-19 pandemic unemployment benefit as well as those who are registered for the wage subsidy scheme.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney said that the country was facing extraordinary challenges.
“I think it’s clear that the aftermath of Covid-19, Ireland post-crisis will be a different place,” Mr Coveney said.
“The role of community will be different, the role of the State in terms of its relationship with the private sector will be different.
“Nobody should fool themselves that actually recovering from this is going to be easy.
“There are 730,000 people today without a job.
“There’s 130,000 people today with the State paying 70% of their wages and all of that has happened in the space of about three weeks.
“We have never faced anything like this as a country before, so it’s not going to be easy.”
Mr Coveney also said the Department of Foreign Affairs has helped some 4,600 Irish citizens return home.
The department has assisted just under 500 Irish citizens home on rescue flights or charter flights that were organised by other EU member States or by the UK.
“We will continue to work with Irish people right across the world,” he told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke show.
“Our call centre has taken over 16,000 calls. The aviation industry has been turned on its head.”
The Tanaiste also said not every Irish citizen who wants to come home will be able to do so, but added that his department will work with them to try and arrange a flight.
He said a lot of Irish citizens remain in Australia and New Zealand.
The NPHET is also considered childcare provisions for healthcare workers.
Creches and schools were closed last month, leaving many healthcare workers with no childcare.
On Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is working on childcare for healthcare workers during the emergency, but it needs to be cleared by the NPHET.