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Lowering Covid-19 infection rate means virus cannot sustain itself and ICUs are protected

Updated: 137 people have now died in the Republic of Ireland from the Covid-19 virus - including 17 who passed away yesterday.

4,604 people have now been diagnosed with the disease in the country, after an increase of 331 positive tests on Saturday.

The figure includes 1,084 cases among healthcare workers.

Reacting to the figures, Dr.Catherine Motherway, President of the Intensive Care Society has warned that intensive care units (ICU) can only guarantee space if the rate of Covid-19 infection continues to fall.

158 people are now being treated in ICUs across the country, with units in Dublin said to be under the most pressure.

Dr Motherway said there is no room for complacency.

"There is no doubt they [intensive care units] are under pressure."

She went on to say that ICUs are coping with the influx of patients by transferring "as is required."

"But we still have capacity within the system, both within our normal bed capacity in some regions and also within our surge capacity,

"But it is absolutely imperative that nobody takes that as a given that everything is fine, we absolutely need to keep those reproductive figures low ... and flatten that curve.

"It's really important," she said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris appealed for people have to work to try and keep the reproductive rate of the disease low.

He said: "On March 16 if you were infected with Covid-19, you were likely infecting 4.3 other people,

"By the end of March that had dropped to 2.5 other people, but we need to get that number below 1,

Minsiter Harris encouraged the public to further prevent the spread of coronavirus. File picture.

"Because if we get that number below 1, it means the virus does not sustain itself in the community,

"It means that every person who gets sick is not replacing themselves....with another person who has the virus."

Yesterday the Minister for Health Minister announced measures to help nursing homes protect themselves from a coronavirus outbreak.

There are 40 clusters – three or more Covid-19 cases at institutions within 72 hours – in nursing homes.

Staff screening will start in nursing homes twice a day, with testing prioritised for staff, and access will be provided to personal protective equipment (PPE), expert advice and training.