'Important to work together': Harris talks with WHO; Govt considering nationalising private hospitals

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says governments are heading in the right direction over COVID-19.

'Important to work together': Harris talks with WHO; Govt considering nationalising private hospitals

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says governments are heading in the right direction over COVID-19.

It comes as the Taoiseach confirms around half the population here could become infected and as Britain shifts to tougher measures to try to control spread.

Minister for Health Simon Harris spent time this morning in a teleconference with WHO, saying it was: "So important we work together on this global pandemic."

Doctor David Nabarro, the WHO special envoy for the global COVID-19, says it takes time to comprehend the scale of the outbreak.

"I think the world is waking up to the reality of the enormous threat that this unseen enemy is offering us.

"It really is an epic struggle and it takes time for each one of us to realise what this means."

Currently there are 223 cases of Covid-19 here with 54 new cases confirmed last night.

Today, Croke Park will begin to become a drive-thru facility for testing for Covid-19 for designated appointments.

In a message, local residents were told: "This will not be a walk-up service.

"The stadium lay-out has been identified as being suitable for facilitating this important service at this time.

"As soon as we have further information, we will share it with you."

It is understood that it will be a drive-thru service, running from 8am-8pm, with visitors given exact route directions and will not be permitted to leave their vehicle.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed they are considering taking over private hospitals in order to tackle the Coronavirus.

The private hospital sector has approximately 2,500 beds in Ireland, a number of which are critical care and ICU beds.

Calls have come from political parties as well as the public after Spain and Italy nationalised private hospitals, which are usually reserved for paying patients.

The Italian government has ordered the private healthcare providers to offer free medical care to COVID-19 sufferers, while on Monday, the Spanish government announced it would put all of Spain's private health providers and their facilities into public control.

Sinn Féin's Health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly has called for similar procedures to be implemented in Ireland, and says this capacity may prove essential in the weeks ahead as Ireland's rate of infection continues to rise.

"We have limited capacity in our public hospitals, and while alternative settings of care are being identified and made available to treat patients, it is also important that private hospital capacity is at the ready," she said.

"Yesterday, Spain took all private hospitals under public control as the country combats Coronavirus - we must stand ready to do the same."

When asked by the Irish Examiner about whether the government were planning on the move, a spokesperson from the Department of Health said: "We are examining all possibilities for providing acute care accommodation for people requiring isolation."

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

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