Ireland yesterday recorded its lowest level of new confirmed Covid-19 cases in 47 days as the chief medical officer declared the project to suppress the disease “a success”.
The 137 new cases notified by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in Dublin is the lowest since the 121 seen on March 22, five days prior to the Taoiseach locking down the country.
Dr Tony Holohan said there is “no question” that the actions of the public over the past six weeks have saved lives.
He said it was now more important than ever to “keep going” with social distancing in order to ensure that the restrictions can be gradually lifted. The first phase of the roadmap to reopen the country begins on May 18.
“If we keep doing what we have been doing we have reason to be hopeful,” he said.
Ireland’s R0 number, a measure of the disease’s infectiousness, has now dropped to between 0.5 and 0.6 from 0.8 two weeks ago, while an average of just two people were admitted to intensive care with the illness over the past seven days.
The briefing heard that 29 more people have now died from Covid-19, bringing the overall death toll to 1,403 since the first recorded death on March 11.
Dr Holohan confirmed that anyone presenting to hospital with Covid 19 who subsequently dies, regardless of the cause, will be included in the mortality total for the virus, in line with WHO guidance.
“We have a very high level, a broad sphere, of testing in comparison to other countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, talks about the alternatives to the Leaving Cert are set to continue today, after the failure to reach a decision earlier in the week prompted sharp exchanges in the Dáil.
Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and Solidarity have called for the exams to be cancelled.
Education sources say that the discussions between the State Exams advisory group have been extremely thorough, and that every possible avenue has been exhausted.
It is understood that each potential alternative assessment poses its own set of challenges. Concerns have also been raised that an ultimate decision on the exams was not reached sooner, providing more time to develop the alternative.
It is also understood that one of the current alternatives currently proposed to the written exams includes using a student’s recent marks, as well as a strong appeals process. However, nothing has been confirmed. A spokesman for Education Minister Joe McHugh made no comment.
Further talks are also expected to continue today amongst the teaching unions. Members of both the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) are said to have raised concerns over the safety of holding written exams and practicals during the pandemic.
The Government hopes to provide some form of clarity by the end of the week but sources in the education sector expressed their doubts about this timeline.