Public urged to ‘hold firm’ as Taoiseach reaffirms no change to social distancing rule

The head of the Health Service Executive has urged the public to “hold firm” over Covid-19 restriction measures.

It comes as the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reaffirmed there is no change to the two-metre social distancing rule introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, acknowledged that the public are worried about jobs and bills, but added that there “are bright days ahead”.

He made the comments as the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospitals continues to fall.

Recent figures show that by Friday, 298 patients with coronavirus were admitted to 29 hospitals across the state.

In a tweet Mr Reid said: “Like many people, today I feel for my family and friends who are worried about their jobs, are anxious over bills and are feeling stress.

“I miss our family and our grand daughter abroad. There is lots of help out there though and there are bright days ahead. Hold firm.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the falling number of patients admitted to hospitals is falling because of actions taken by the public.

“Your efforts are keeping people well, keeping people out of hospitals and saving lives,” Mr Harris said in a tweet.

“Please keep up the public health measures.”

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he had not seen a worrying trend in people’s behaviour since lockdown was eased earlier this week.

The majority of people were adhering to restrictions, Dr Holohan added.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>People on Henry street in Dublin city centre as restrictions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have been eased (Brian Lawless/PA)</figcaption>
People on Henry street in Dublin city centre as restrictions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have been eased (Brian Lawless/PA)

The latest data on infection, influenced by behaviour during an earlier period, showed the rate of spread was below one.

Photos published earlier this week displayed people congregating on busy beaches near Dublin after the area in which people can exercise was extended to five kilometres.

Dr Holohan said: “I have not seen any worrying trend in relation to those but it is too early to say.”

On Friday, Dr Holohan said 11 new deaths had been reported, bringing the toll to 1,592.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

Another 115 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 24,506.

One new admission to hospital intensive care was recorded.

Dr Holohan said there was not widespread immunity to the virus.

“The percentage of people who have evidence of having been exposed to this and who did not know as individuals, that they were exposed to this, percentages are quite low and not nearly large enough to have any impact on the progression of the further wave.

“It does mean therefore that from the point of view of infection it would behave exactly the same way.”

Dr Holohan said the public health emergency team had “recommended that the HSE build on the very significant work to date in expanding the testing capacity, to ensure that there is an integrated and co-ordinated clinical and public health-informed approach to the establishment and implementation of a national testing strategy”.