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Ireland aims to increase coronavirus testing to 4,500 a day

Health Minister Simon Harris described the coming week as ‘really crucial’ in the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Irish Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid (PA)

Irish Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid (PA)

Irish Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid (PA)

Ireland is aiming to almost double coronavirus testing to 4,500 a day.

It comes at the start of what Health Minister Simon Harris has described as a “really crucial week” in the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, it was announced that 21 more patients diagnosed with Covid-19 had died in Ireland, bringing the overall death toll to 158.

And 390 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of detections to 4,994.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has joined thousands of people answering Ireland’s call for medical staff to return to the health service to help in the battle against coronavirus.

The former doctor will do one shift a week as his contribution to the effort.

A spokesman said: “Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out even in a small way.”

Earlier, Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid made the announcement on Sunday but cautioned the supply of the chemicals for the testing reagent remain a “significant worldwide challenge”.

He revealed that due to an increase of laboratory capacity, testing will increase from an average of 2,500 to 4,500 a day.

Testing had dropped to 1,500 a day late last week due to issues with the availability of the testing reagent.

Mr Reid said that a German lab is now completing 2,000 tests per day for Ireland, but that the HSE is “still looking at other EU solutions”.

Negotiations are also ongoing with firms in Ireland about supplying the reagent chemicals.

Mr Reid also gave an update on ventilators to help treat those who become seriously ill, saying there are currently 1,100 ventilators in Ireland.

More had been secured and are being tested, with 250 expected to be delivered to hospitals this week, he added.

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Street art in Dublin created by the collective Subset showing health workers wearing face masks as the coronavirus outbreak continues in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Street art in Dublin created by the collective Subset showing health workers wearing face masks as the coronavirus outbreak continues in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

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Street art in Dublin created by the collective Subset showing health workers wearing face masks as the coronavirus outbreak continues in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

On human resources, Mr Reid said 70,000 applications have been received in response to Ireland’s call for more help. Of these, 27,000 are “self-identified” with relevant work experience and 820 have been progressed over the last week.

Meanwhile a group of independent TDs has urged the Government to consider initiatives for cloth face coverings to be worn in public and work areas.

They have suggested that even simple cloth coverings can slow the spread of coronavirus and help people who may not know they have Covid-19 from transmitting it to others.

In a statement issued by independent TD Denis Naughten, the group said face coverings could allow some people to get back to work while continuing to observe social distance and hygiene protection measures.

“We would emphasise that these cloth masks are not the respirators or ventilator type that are used to protect healthcare workers and these important mask protectors must be reserved for our frontline healthcare workers and medical first responders who are at most serious risk,” they added.

Earlier Garda Deputy Commissioner John Twomey urged members of the public to continue social distancing ahead of the expected coronavirus peak.

“We want to thank people for the high level of compliance with the health guidelines,” said the senior officer who heads up the Garda’s National Covid-19 Co-ordination Centre.

Garda Deputy Commissioner Twomey reminds the public to follow the essential travel and social distancing guidelines as set out by the HSE. #PhysicalDistancing #WashYourHands #StayAtHome

Posted by An Garda Síochána on Thursday, April 2, 2020

“It is vital that continues today and for the rest of the time they are due to be in place.

“By working together and keeping to the HSE advice, we can flatten the curve and save lives.”

Mr Twomey added that people should continue to stay home, exercise within 2km of their home, and carry on social distancing.

“The HSE guidelines are designed to ensure that we stop the spread of Covid-19 and we reduce the risk to our friends and families. It is in all our interests that they are adhered to,” he added.

PA