Additional reporting: Neil Michael, Aoife Moore, and Paul Hosford
Doubt has been cast over the Government’s contact tracing system as 36 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded across Ireland yesterday.
Tuesday’s total is the highest daily number of fatalities recorded since the virus hit the State. The total number of deaths is now 210, with the number of positive cases rising by 345, bringing the total to 5,709.
Concerns have been raised over people who tested positive for Covid-19 but were not told of their results until contacted by their doctor.
Patients with positive test results are supposed to be informed by public health officials, so that essential contact tracing can begin as soon as possible to inform others of their possible vulnerability.
Now, some GPs have received positive test results for their patients and contacted them to discuss their diagnosis, only to discover the patient had not yet been informed of their condition.
Such a delay in informing patients of their diagnosis and receiving details of their direct contacts with others would have a detrimental effect on slowing the spread of the virus.
For those not in hospital, the average wait time for test results is 7-10 days.
Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, has said testing has stepped up substantially, with 40% of the total number of tests undertaken conducted in the last week.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris told Prime Time last night that, after talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Attorney General, he planned to sign an order to give additional powers to the gardaí to ensure that people stay within 2km of their homes.
Senior politicians and chief medical officer Tony Holohan have pleaded with the public to stay home this bank holiday weekend, despite the expected good weather and fatigue with restriction measures.
Dr Holohan said:”We’re not at a point yet where we’re ready as a society to step back from the collective effort that we’ve had in place. We understand the effect that upcoming holidays and bank holiday weekends have on the population, but our message is a clear one — we want people to stay the course with us.”
Mr Varadkar urged the public not to visit holiday homes in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.
He said that while the spread of the virus is slowing, people travelling could “give it a boost”.
In a tweet, Mr Varadkar said: “Please do not visit a holiday home or caravan park this Easter weekend.
“Stay at home and flatten the curve.”
Mr Harris said a change in the current restrictions, due to expire on Easter Sunday, is unlikely, as the measures are working and need to stay in place. However, a final call will not be made until Friday.
Meanwhile, commitments for further co-ordination between the North and the Republic in the fight against Covid-19 have been agreed by senior medical staff.
At a cabinet briefing, the Government approved an emergency contribution of €15m towards the costs of operating certain passenger ferry services for three months. The routes Dublin/Cherbourg and Rosslare/Fishguard, Pembroke, Cherbourg and Bilbao are operated by Irish Ferries, Stena Line and Brittany Ferries.
In education, universities and colleges will not be holding written, oral, or practical assessments in examination centres during the pandemic. Higher education institutions have finalised alternative assessment arrangements, with options including online exams, written assignments, or rescheduling, with new arrangements being communicated to all students.