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COVID-19 has been “contained and effectively suppressed” in the population at large in Ireland, the country’s chief medical officer said Thursday.
Dr. Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said health officials are “increasingly confident” the coronavirus pandemic was being suppressed in general across the nation, but warned that the spread of the virus and deaths it may cause are far from over in nursing homes.
“The data clearly shows that there are two very different experiences of COVID-19 in Ireland today,” Holohan said in a statement, according to Reuters.
“In order to protect the vulnerable, the first task was to suppress the virus in the population at large. We are increasingly confident that we are achieving this. All of our efforts now need to be on extinguishing COVID-19 in our community residential settings, including nursing homes.”
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Ireland, which has a population of under 5 million, reported 724 new cases to bring its total to 13,271 with 486 deaths, but officials noted that the growth rate in new cases had been close to zero since April 3. The number of people who become infected from each positive case fell to between 0.7 and 1.
However, nursing homes account for 253 of the 486 coronavirus-related deaths the nation has faced, with 49 fatalities within other types of care facilities.
The assessment raised hopes that the nation’s stay-at-home order would not be extended beyond May 5 but could gradually loosen from then. Acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said earlier Thursday he hoped to release guidelines for how restrictions could be eased even before then.
At the same time, Varadkar told parliament that new measures to protect nursing home residents were not being implemented fast enough.
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The government promised nursing homes better funding, more staff and priority testing on April 4 as the number of clusters began to rise quickly.