Tony Holohan hits out at ‘hurtful’ fake news about nurse deaths

Seventeen deaths from coronavirus highest daily figure yet
Tony Holohan hits out at ‘hurtful’ fake news about nurse deaths

By Paul Hosford, Pádraig Hoare, and Noel Baker

Health chiefs have warned against spreading “hurtful” misinformation online, as Ireland recorded the highest total of deaths in a day since the Covid-19 crisis began.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan warned the public against amplifying unverified stories, saying no nurses had died, despite claims on social media yesterday.

Another 17 people with the disease — four women and 13 men — have died, it was announced in yesterday’s daily update. Of the 17 deaths, eight were in the east, three in the south, three in the north-west and three in the west.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said the median age of the reported deaths was 84, and eight were reported as having underlying health conditions.

It brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland to 71. There were also 325 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the confirmed total to 3,235.

To date, 30,213 tests have been carried out in laboratories across the country.

Dr Holohan said progress was being made towards “flattening the curve” in terms of the spread of the virus, with the growth rate having dropped from over 30% to 15%.

“We believe we are flattening the curve, but 15% growth is too much, we need to continue to work to try and flatten that growth further,” he said, expressing condolences to each family affected.

Dr Holohan and Colm Henry, the chief clinical officer, warned against posting unverified information.

Dr Holohan said: “We can’t stand over the veracity of stories that we haven’t seen or had time to examine.

All the data people need is on the HSE website — that is the trusted source of information.

Dr Henry added: “Since the beginning of this, there has been a great deal of stories, the great majority of which are not true. I can’t emphasise how hurtful these have been to families and to patients.”

Covid-19 has now claimed more than 40,000 lives worldwide, including 29,000 in Europe, latest figures suggest.

Asked about closing Ireland’s sea and airports to foreign visitors, Dr Holohan said that such a move was unlikely, as it may have a negative impact the supply chain or on healthcare workers.

He added, however, that his team would continue to discuss the matter.

Regarding infections in long-term residential care, such as nursing homes and homecare settings, NPHET will work with the HSE to identify steps to strengthen support to staff and providers.

Families wishing to attend funerals for their loved ones should restrict attendance to 10 people, irrespective of whether the death related to Covid-19 or not, latest Government guidelines said.

Liz Canavan of the Department of An Taoiseach said social distancing should still be observed at such services.

The Irish Association of Funeral Directors said it wanted to “reassure families that a memorial service or celebration of their [loved one’s] life can be arranged for a later date”.

It emerged yesterday that the bill due to the pandemic has already reached €6.7bn and will rise further, according to analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which provides independent information to the Oireachtas.

Just under 500,000 people are now out of work and more will follow, the PBO estimated. An expected surplus of €2.5bn in public finances for 2020 will be wiped out and “substantial additional borrowing” will be needed, it said.

Both testing of frontline healthcare staff and the process of speeding up their test results is now Government policy, the INMO said, after it emerged that some workers were missing vital shifts while awaiting results.

A spokesperson said the INMO had been assured by the Government that it can now happen, although details have yet to be finalised.

The president of the Garda Representative Association has called for a specific Garda policy to strictly oppose bail for any alleged offender charged in relation to “weaponising Covid-19”, including coughing, spitting, and threatening gardaí with transmission of the disease.

A 51-year-old construction worker was refused bail after allegedly threatening to infect gardaí with Covid-19 and attempting to spit and bite them after an arrest in Dublin.

In Limerick, a teenager appeared in the Children’s Court charged with assault following an incident where a shop assistant was coughed upon.

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The latest restrictions in operation since Friday, March 27 mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to:

  • Shop for essential food and household goods;
  • Attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products;
  • Care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits;
  • Exercise outdoors - within 2kms of your home and only with members of your own household, keeping 2 metres distance between you and other people
  • Travel to work if you provide an essential service - be sure to practice social distancing

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