The deaths of two Kilkenny hospital workers, described as "real-life heroes", has "rattled" healthcare workers in the area.
Tributes have poured in for the man and woman, who worked at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny and died after contracting Covid-19.
The woman in her 50s died in the hospital on Wednesday and the man in his 40s died at his home on Tuesday.
Both were employed as support staff at the hospital.
Dr John Cuddihy, chairman of the Carlow Kilkenny/St Luke’s Hospital Local Integrated Care Committee (LICC), heralded the bravery of healthcare workers.
Speaking on KCLR 96FM, Dr Cuddihy said the news of the deaths of two healthcare workers "rattled" him.
"They were taken from us in such a cruel way. It brings it home in a raw way.
"Our colleagues are bravely battling on. We are all afraid, every one of us but we all afraid together. We are not on our own.
"And it’s this togetherness and teamwork and courage that helps us carry on. But what choice do we have? Our friends, our families, our fathers, our cousins, our next door neighbours are ill and they need our help."
Cllr Peter Cleere, cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, said it is a stark reminder of the importance of the current restrictions: “These are everyday, real-life heroes. There are people who have just lost friends and colleagues, and they have still faced into their work this morning.
"We are all so indebted to them and grateful. All we can do for them is try to adhere to the rules and stay home."
SIPTU Health Division organiser, Paul Bell, said: "The colleagues of these two workers, as well as the members and staff of the Union’s health division, are deeply shocked by their deaths.
"These two workers have made the ultimate sacrifice while assisting in the fight against the Covid-19 virus."
Kilkenny-based Fine Gael TD, John Paul Phelan, said he was devastated to learn of the death of two healthcare workers at St Lukes General Hospital in Kilkenny from COVID-19: "Our healthcare workers go above and beyond every single day to care for those impacted by Covid-19.
We all see or hear the figures every evening and we all know of people in our commmunity who have been tested for or are recovering from the virus."
"But a death in our community, particularly the death of two people who risked life and limb day after day to help others, is particularly hard to comprehend.
"I want to offer my heartfelt condolence to the families, the friends and the communities of the bereaved. We stand with them at this dark time."
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999