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Number of people infected by a confirmed case of Covid-19 has fallen again

Harris said the number of admissions to hospital and intensive care have halved in the last week.

The health minister says the number admitted to hospital and the ICU is falling.
The health minister says the number admitted to hospital and the ICU is falling.

THE NUMBER OF people that a person with Covid-19 is infecting in Ireland has reduced further, the Dáil heard today. 

The reproductive rate of the virus refers to how many other people a confirmed case goes on to infect.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Health Minister Simon Harris said the modeling work in relation to the virus shows the reproductive rate has fallen from between 0.3 and 0.8.

He said the overall rate is considered stable at around 0.5.

Last week, the reproduction rate of the coronavirus remained between 0.5 and 0.8.

Bringing the reproduction rate – or the R0 – below 1.0, and keeping it there, has been a key aim for the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in order to slow the spread of the virus. 

While deaths from Covid-19 are of concern, so is the number of deaths on non-Covid-19 patients.

Speaking in the Dáil today, the health minister said “it’s entirely possible” that Ireland could see more people pass away from other illnesses other than Covid-19, stating that secondary mortality is a huge concern.

However, he said work is being done to prevent this.

Harris said the number of admissions to hospital and intensive care have halved in the last week.

Last week, hospital admissions were around 40 a day whereas this week that is around 20 a day, and last week ICU admissions were around 4-6 a day whereas it is around two a day this week.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie at the weekend, Harris said there is no “magic number” at which restrictions would be lifted or fast-tracked, but rather a trend of trajectory that must be achieved.

He said lockdown restrictions kicked in when there were 70 people in ICU, and for things to resume to some level of normality, that figure or a lower one would have to be reached.

In long-term care settings the number of cases is declining based on the preliminary data, said Harris, adding that while it was about 100 a day in early April it was around 50 a day towards the end of last week.

The levels of the disease in our community continus to decrease, Harris told the Dáil.

“This gives us an opportunity to go after this disease where it is and focus our attention on places that are at a higher risk of outbreaks such as workplaces and other congregated settings,” he said.

On testing, the HSE has expanded capacity to 12,000 a day. The HSE is now stepping up capacity to 15,000 tests a day in the next two weeks.

“Turnaround times will continue to improve and we should see average turnaround time from swab to result of 1-3 days by the 18 May,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly raised concerns about the rise of secondary deaths, stating that screening, such as CervicalCheck and BreastCheck, need to reopen. 

Harris said he also wants to see the screening service get back up and running, and work is underway to do this safely.

The membership of the new Covid-19 Dáil Committee was also announced today. Fine Gael’s Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Colm Brophy and Peter Burke will sit on the committee, as will Fianna Fáil’s Mary Burke, John McGuinness, Norma Foley and Stephen Donnelly.

For Sinn Féin, Pearse Doherty, Louise O’Reilly, Matt Carty and David Culllinane will take seats. Green Party TD Ossian Smyth, Social Democrats Roisín Shortall, Labour’s Duncan Smith, People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith, Independent Matt Shanahan, Independent Michael Collins and Independent Michael McNamara are also on the committee.

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