Coronavirus in Ireland: 22 outbreaks in nursing homes as 389,000 seek assistance

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By Paul Cullen

A total of 22 outbreaks of coronavirus have been reported in nursing homes across the Irish State, according to the latest analysis from the HSE.

All but two of the outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes in the east of the country. The remaining two are in the northeast.

The figures were released by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) as representatives of Nursing Home Ireland were due to meet Minister for Health Simon Harris on Monday over their concerns in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also emerged on Monday that 389,000 applications for unemployment assistance have been processed by the Department of Social Protection over the last two weeks.

The figures come as a further 10 people were confirmed on Sunday to have died as a result of coronavirus, bringing the death toll in the Republic to 46.

Six more people died in Northern Ireland on Sunday, bringing the total deaths on the island due to the virus to 67.

A further 200 confirmed cases brought to 2,615 the number of known cases of Covid-19 in the Republic.

Eighty-six new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the North, bringing the total of cases in Northern Ireland to 410.

Coronavirus main points

  • Follow the latest developments from Ireland and abroad on The Irish Times liveblog.
  • A total of 389,000 have applied for unemployment payment in just two weeks because of the coronavirus crisis.
  • A total of 22 outbreaks of coronavirus have been reported in nursing homes across the State.
  • A letter to Ireland from Italy, from Francesca Melandri, which tells Irish people what to expect in the future.
  • Workers may face a tax bill on emergency payments of up to €410 a week from their employer under the Government’s wage subsidy scheme.
  • Spain becomes the third country to have more infections than China as cases rise to 85,195, with 812 dead.

The cluster figure, which relates to last Friday, represents a dramatic increase on four nursing home clusters of the disease recorded just five days earlier.

The number of hospital outbreaks has also jumped over this period, from six to 19, while the number of outbreaks in private homes has more than doubled, from 10 to 22.

There have also been the first recorded clusters of Covid-19 in a pub and in a hotel, both in the south of the country.

Clusters have also been identified in extended families (seven), workplaces (five) and residential institutions (four).

While the number of outbreaks linked to foreign travel increased over the five-day period from 13 to 16, this factor is declining as a proportion of the overall number.

The incidence of the virus is highest in Dublin, followed by Co Westmeath, according to the epidemiological analysis by the HPSC.

Of the 43 patients who had died by midnight last Friday, one each was in the 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 year-old age categories; two were aged 55-64; and 38 were age 65 or older.

Government measures

On Monday Liz Canavan, an assistant secretary at the Department, is the official in charge of the Government’s Covid-19 response said around 283,000 people who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic will receive a payment this week.

Of the 389,000 applications 88 per cent have been processed. The remainder were either duplicates or individuals who were under 18 or not previously in employment.

The Government introduced a temporary wage subsidy to enable employers to keep staff on their payroll during the pandemic by refunding 70 per cent of an employee’s take home pay up to a maximum of €410 per week.

The Government should consider protecting the country’s borders to prevent new coronavirus infections coming into the State, one of the leading infectious diseases experts has said.

Dr Paddy Mallon, a consultant at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin and professor of microbial diseases at UCD, said a major risk to the State was more new Covid-19 infections coming into the country.

“We have got our own outbreak in the country that we are trying to extinguish but the big threat is new infections coming in,” he said.

“We should be looking seriously over the next week at protecting our borders and stopping new infections coming in because it will give us the ability to control the infections that we have.”

The warning comes as the Health Service Executive said it was “impossible to predict” the timing of the peak of infections but it was planning for the worst of the crisis to hit by mid-April.

Worldwide infections have surpassed 720,000 with more than 30,000 deaths.

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