HSE chief executive says further PPE may be needed; Harris introduces new GP regulations

Several flights have arrived in Dublin airport this week from China with personal protective equipment. File picture.

Several flights have arrived in Dublin airport this week from China with personal protective equipment, to address the shortage here.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid says, even more, may be needed.

He said: "I know the issue of PPE (personal protective equipment) has been an issue of major concern.

"We have been in negotiations worldwide to secure a very significant order of over 2,000,000 [Items of PPE] and that delivery has started over the last few days.

"We are however engaged to secure alternative stocks should these supplies not materialise to the extent we expect."

Harris introduces new GP regulations

Minister for Health, Simon Harris has introduced new regulations for patient prescriptions handled by GPS.

The new rules will prevent patients from going to their GP for certain prescriptions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Simon Harris said it will take some pressure off doctors and will limit the requirement of patients to visit their GP.

Repeat prescriptions have been extended from 6 months to 9 months and Mr Harris said this will allow pharmacists "to use their own judgement on occasion" and that "these important measures will try and really free up crucial GP slots."

Earlier: Holohan: Shutdown may be extended

It is too early to say if Ireland’s restrictions on movement will end on Easter Sunday, the country’s chief medical officer said.

Tony Holohan was speaking as it was announced a further 13 people had died from Covid-19 in Ireland. The total deaths in Ireland now stands at 98, with last night’s announcement of 402 additional cases bringing the country’s total to 3,849.

Dr Holohan echoed sentiments voiced earlier by Tánaiste Simon Coveney that the ban on non-essential travel, the restrictions on gatherings, and the closure of non-essential businesses could remain in place until the end of this month.

“It’s difficult for us to say with certainty, but we won’t be surprised if we find ourselves getting closer to April 12 that we have to ask the public to work with us again to ensure that we continue to see the benefit of the measures that we have in place,” said Mr Coveney.

“We’ll know fully towards the end of next week what the position is. We’ll be able to make a better assessment of where we stand — do we need further improvement or have we, in fact, turned the corner?”

Dr Holohan said improvements had been made, specifically in the reproductive number of confirmed cases — that is, the number of people those who had been diagnosed with the virus had been in close contact with. This had come down from over 20 to just three.

He said it was impossible to ignore the effect the measures were having on the country, but public health was the overriding priority.

“We’re very conscious of the scale of impact that this is having on society,” he said. “Whether it’s people in the educational system, the workplace, or society generally, the ask is significant, so it weighs heavily on us.

“We don’t come to government to ask for measures, as we have three times, without giving significant consideration. This is unprecedented territory in society.”

He said lifting restrictions would be done only if a robust tracing and response capacity was available.

Dr Holohan said Ireland is not yet on course to avoid the “nightmare scenario” of healthcare capacity being overwhelmed.

“If we keep growing at the rate at which we’re growing, we will not avoid that scenario, so we need to keep improving,” he said. “There are two ways to do that, one is continue to suppress and drive down the infection rates — that’s the most important strategy. It’s clear that by flattening the wave, we have saved many, many lives already.

“Secondly, we have to have capacity if we need it. But we don’t want to be admitting people to ICU.”

Asked about the Leinster nursing home raised in the Dáil yesterday, where 70 staff and residents have tested positive for the illness, Dr Holohan said that all clusters were worrying.

“A cluster is a group of linked cases, and the average is around four or five,” he said. “But we’re concerned about any cluster which breaks out [somewhere like a nursing home] because, even if the cluster is small, it is happening in the context where staff and patients have not picked up the illness.

“That carries the risk of spread to vulnerable residents and to staff who can then spread the virus into their communities and their families.”

    Useful information
  • 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