- with reporting from Daniel McConnell, Paul Hosford, and Liz Dunphy
The number of people who have died having contracted Covid-19 in Ireland has more than doubled to 19, after ten new deaths were confirmed.
The sharp spike in deaths relate to three females and seven males. Nine of the ten deaths were in the east of the country, while one was in the south.
Health officials stated that most of the ten deaths occurred in hospitals or nursing homes, and the median age of patients diagnosed with the virus who have died is 79 years.
“While it is a big increase, the numbers overall are still small but we, unfortunately, see additional deaths,” chief medical officer, Tony Holohan said.
In total, the Department of Health confirmed 255 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, and there are now 1,819 confirmed cases across the country.
The sharp rise in deaths comes as gardaí across the State are preparing to escalate their Covid-19 operations this weekend.
Authorities want to avoid the threat to public health posed by overcrowded parks, walkways, and beaches as seen last weekend, with several days of pleasant weather being forecast.
An Garda Síochána have ordered 16,000 spit hoods to put over the heads of detainees to prevent them coughing or spitting at gardaí.
Public health concerns were raised after scenes last weekend of traffic tailbacks and crowds of people at scenic walks, parks, and beaches.
“We are giving this weekend a lot of attention,” said one senior officer. “We don’t want a repeat of last weekend. We are looking at high-risk areas, beaches and parks, groups of youths congregating, and increasing our patrols and visibility.”
Another commander said: “The main thing is around public amenities that might be frequented by any great numbers over the weekend and [gardaí] having a high-visibility presence there, advising people not to congregate and enforce social distancing.”
Senior officers have told the Irish Examiner that they still do not have sweeping lockdown powers contained in the emergency legislation passed by the Oireachtas a week ago, and signed by the President last Friday.
It is understood that Simon Harris, the health minister, has yet to sign regulations provided for in the legislation to legally enable gardaí to use the powers.
Garda sources said they had hoped the powers would be in place by now, given that warmer weather is forecast this weekend, and the clocks go forward an hour, meaning it will be bright until about 8pm from Sunday.
The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 contains sweeping powers, including travel restrictions; requiring people to stay at home; prohibiting events; closure of premises, and detaining people suspected of being infected with Covid-19 who are breaching quarantine.
Once the regulations are made, the Garda commissioner will issue a directive explaining to officers the new laws and how he wants them to be enforced.
A father and son were charged in Dublin yesterday for assaulting two gardaí and accused of spitting at them. Gardaí objected to bail and cited fears in the population over Covid-19.
The Dáil, over 12 hours, debated further emergency legislation to provide more supports for workers, renters, and small business owners.
Speaking during the debate on the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill, Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, said: “The cost of this intervention to the State will be approximately €300m per week.
“That cost is only based on estimates we are creating at a point of huge uncertainty.
“That cost could grow, depending on the challenge we face, or it could diminish if we are successful.
“That acknowledgement of risk and what could change, however, only deepens my view that this is the kind of action a State needs to take at a time of need,” he said.
Meanwhile, Simon Harris, the health minister, announced that student nurses and midwives would be paid for their work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, by applying for a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) contract.
He said that the work was “an offer and not an obligation” but added that the country needs “all hands on deck through this challenging period.”