Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.45 25 Mar 2020


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The Taoiseach no longer thinks there will be 15,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ireland by the end of the month, but he is continuing to urge people not to be complacent.

There are currently 1,329 cases here, while seven patients who have been diagnosed with the virus have died.

In his St Patrick's Day address to the nation just over a week ago, the Taoiseach said officials believed the number of cases would "rise to 15,000 cases or more by the end of the month and rise further in the weeks thereafter".

Mr Varadkar today the estimate was based on a 30% daily increase of new cases.

He explained: “That hasn’t happened, at least not of yet.

“It looks like we’re going to come in certainly lower than 15,000.

“That is of course 15,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus - there are many, many more cases out there that are not confirmed.”

The Taoiseach stressed that officials can’t begin to contemplate the idea that they’re containing the virus until the number of confirmed cases is falling every day.

Health Minister Simon Harris also urged the public not to be complacent.

He said the number of ICU admissions is “a cause of concern” - saying that shows there are a number of people in the country who are seriously ill.

Figures covering the 965 confirmed COVID-19 cases up until midnight on Sunday showed that 36 people had been admitted to the ICU.

Revised testing criteria

Separately, it has been confirmed that patients will now need to meet revised criteria to qualify for a COVID-19 test - including displaying two major symptoms of the virus.

Patients must now have a fever and at least one respiratory symptoms (such as a cough or shortness of breath) to be referred for testing, after Ireland yesterday adopted the World Health Organisation case definition.

Contacts of a confirmed case, healthcare staff and vulnerable groups will be prioritised for testing.

94% of all tests have come back negative so far, with up to 20,000 people a day requesting tests.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan today said the previous strategy wasn't working.

He explained: "It was leading us to direct our resources inappropriately, it was not helping in terms of our public health management, and it was not necessary or feasible for us to continue."

However, he stressed that people who have symptoms of the virus should still self-isolate for 14 days.

Main image: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at Government Buildings today. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw / Rollingnews/ Pool

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