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Health chief says public must keep up sacrifices to drive down infection rate

Paul Reid welcomed the drop in infection rates but said sacrifices must be kept going.

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A social distancing sign in Phoenix Park, Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

A social distancing sign in Phoenix Park, Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

A social distancing sign in Phoenix Park, Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

The chief executive of the Health Service Executive has appealed to the public to keep up their sacrifices to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Paul Reid tweeted: “I’m always an optimist and all of your sacrifices are helping. They really are. But it is far too early to be a trend. So a special plea to everyone to keep it going. In the HSE, we will continue to scale up to help us tackle the worst, as best we can.”

It comes as experts on the National Public Health Emergency Team welcomed data showing the infection rate has dropped from 33% to 15% since restrictions on public life were first introduced earlier this month.

Leading epidemiologist Professor Philip Nolan said it would be another seven to 10 days before it could be determined whether the latest clampdown on movement, imposed by the Government on Friday night, had helped to further cut the infection rate.

Ireland coronavirus cases and deaths
(PA Graphics)

Ireland’s death toll rose to 54 on Monday, following the report of eight more deaths.

A total of 295 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in the Republic, the highest daily total so far, bringing the overall number to 2,910.

Monday also saw the Government formalise an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, thousands of people who have lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are due to receive their first benefit payment today.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced two weeks ago and 389,000 people applied for the payment.

Dr Gabriel Scally, a public health expert, said that Northern Ireland and the Republic must harmonise their response to Covid-19.

Dr Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, said he has concerns about the policy differences between the two jurisdictions.

Speaking to RTE Radio’s Sean O’Rourke show he added: “My concerns are that we’ve got two different regimes operating in the North and South insofar as this outbreak is concerned.

“Even that issue about isolation times, if you happen to develop symptoms of the coronavirus in Dundalk, you’ll be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. If you develop exactly the same symptoms a few miles away in Newry you’ll be asked to self-isolate for seven days.

“The South has an excellent programme of testing… but in the North they abandoned testing.

New coronavirus cases in Ireland
(PA Graphics)

“There’s no community testing going on so they’re fighting this fire blind.

“These are just some of the big differences.

“It would be nonsense to have restrictions on people coming off planes in Dublin and not have exactly the same restrictions on people coming off planes in Belfast.

“Let’s put all our histories to the side and let’s work on what’s best for the people on the island because we’ve a big advantage on an island, and we will squander that advantage if we don’t take a unified approach to dealing with this problem.

“There’s a huge amount of movement across the border and we can’t have it that the North removes their restrictions at one point and then the South at another point.

“It’s completely out of sync. There really needs to be some North/South harmonisation.

“It’s in everyone’s interests.”

The fuel allowance scheme is being extended for four weeks from April 10 through to May 8 in response to the Covid-19 emergency.

The 24.50 euro per week means-tested allowance is typically available from October to April each year, and had been due to end on April 10.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said it is vital that “older and more vulnerable groups are as comfortable as possible” during the current crisis, as over-70s have been told to cocoon.

She said: “The Covid emergency presents a once-in-a-century challenge to our society and our public services and we are determined that our department does everything we can to meet emerging needs and provide comfort to as many as possible.”

PA