Impact of coronavirus could last many months, warns Harris

The impact of coronavirus could last “many months”, the health minister has warned.

There are now 292 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Republic – an increase of 69 – and the number is expected to increase significantly over the next few days.

Simon Harris described the next seven days as “critical in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus”.

In an effort to maximise hospital capacity, Mr Harris said the private sector has been engaging with the HSE in relation to the use of beds and facilities, adding that he feels “very confident” that an agreement can be reached.

The minister also urged anyone who can join the fight against coronavirus to come forward.

Mr Harris said the health service needs “all hands on deck” and insisted there will be “no financial restraints” on the HSE to hire doctors and nurses.

“’Your country needs you’ was a cliche in the past, but it is an actual call we are making here in Ireland,” he said.

Those who can help were asked to contact the HSE to offer their services.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>One of the coronavirus testing kits (Ben Birchall/PA)</figcaption>
One of the coronavirus testing kits (Ben Birchall/PA)

Meanwhile, 30,000 Covid-19 testing kits are due to be delivered to Ireland tomorrow with fears that supplies could run out.

Nineteen out of the planned 30 testing centres are now open. The number includes a facility at Croke Park in Dublin.

Patients are instructed to drive in, place a mask on their face and remain in their car until called to a bay for testing – which will include a swab of the nose and the throat.

Dr Colm Henry, clinical lead of the HSE, has said there are “large volumes of people” waiting to get tested for Covid-19.

He said there will be delays getting people tested and that it is difficult to carry out the test in the time that patients would like, adding that the first line of defence remains testing, contact tracing and self isolation.

    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;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024