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Impact of coronavirus could last many months, warns Irish health minister

There are now 292 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Irish Republic, and the number is expected to increase significantly in the coming days.

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A man in a face mask walks past a man dressed as St Patrick near the Temple bar in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

A man in a face mask walks past a man dressed as St Patrick near the Temple bar in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

A man in a face mask walks past a man dressed as St Patrick near the Temple bar in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The impact of coronavirus could last “many months”, the Irish health minister has warned.

There are now 292 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Irish Republic – an increase of 69 – and the number is expected to increase significantly over the next few days.

Simon Harris described the next seven days as “critical in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus”.

In an effort to maximise hospital capacity, Mr Harris said the private sector has been engaging with the Health Service Executive in relation to the use of beds and facilities, adding that he feels “very confident” that an agreement can be reached.

The minister also urged anyone who can join the fight against coronavirus to come forward.

Mr Harris said the health service needs “all hands on deck” and insisted there will be “no financial restraints” on the HSE to hire doctors and nurses.

“’Your country needs you’ was a cliche in the past, but it is an actual call we are making here in Ireland,” he said.

Those who can help were asked to contact the HSE to offer their services.

Coronavirus
One of the coronavirus testing kits (Ben Birchall/PA)

Meanwhile, 30,000 Covid-19 testing kits are due to be delivered to Ireland on Thursday with fears that supplies could run out.

Nineteen out of the planned 30 testing centres are now open. The number includes a facility at Croke Park in Dublin.

Patients are instructed to drive in, place a mask on their face and remain in their car until called to a bay for testing – which will include a swab of the nose and the throat.

Dr Colm Henry, clinical lead of the Health Service Executive, has said there are “large volumes of people” waiting to get tested for Covid-19.

He said there will be delays getting people tested and that it is difficult to carry out the test in the time that patients would like, adding that the first line of defence remains testing, contact tracing and self isolation.

PA