The Department of Health has announced further 14 deaths linked to Covid-19, as well as 212 new cases.

It brings the total number of deaths in the Republic of Ireland to 85.

There are now 3,447 confirmed cases in total.

Of the 14 deaths, 10 were located in the east, with four in the South.

Half of them were men, with the other half women, and right were reported as having underlying health conditions.

The median age of those who have died in Ireland so far is 82.

As of the 2,990 cases identified upto midnight on Monday 20th March, 48% of cases are male, with 52% female.

There has also been 134 clusters involving 563 cases – the median age of which is 48.

Over 834 cases – 28% – have been hospitalised, with 126 of those admitted to ICU.

More than 752 cases – representing 25% – are associated with healthcare workers.

Dublin has the highest number of cases at 1,645 (55% of all cases) followed by Cork with 255 cases (8%)

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn – who is filling in for Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan this evening – said that of those for whom transmission status is known, community transmission accounts for 60%, close contact accounts for 21%, and travel abroad accounts for 18%.

Dr Glynn also said Dr Holohan hopes to be back in work tomorrow and said he that he would be making no further comment about his condition.

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Separately, research conducted on behalf of the Department shows that 65% of people in Ireland are now engaging in digital interactions with family and friends.

The nationally representative online survey of 1,270 adults carried out today, shows 89% believe current social distancing measures are appropriate, 94% are confident in their ability to adhere to new restrictions, and 85% feel they have adapted to changes since Covid-19 and know the steps to take if they develop symptoms.

Dr Glynn said; “Our research suggests that 1 in 3 people are worried about their health, with 3 out of 4 worried about the health of their families and friends.

“People are taking action to look after their wellbeing. Two thirds of people are conversing with family and friend’s by using phone and internet.

“Restrictions do not mean you stop maintaining your relationships or your health. Adapt your hobbies; go for walks, exercise and do the things that maintain wellbeing within the limits of physical distancing and public health advice.

“I can confirm that expanded contact tracing for all confirmed cases for the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms, as decided by National Public Health Emergency Team will commence this week. This will reduce transmission of the virus.”

Meanwhile two more people have died as a result of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, where 103 new cases have been confirmed.

The number of deaths to date in the region is now 30 and 689 confirmed cases.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there was an international shortage of reagents needed for testing the coronavirus and that more were expected to be made available next week.

It followed an apology from the HSE to anyone waiting for test results. It said it wanted to assure the public that it was making every effort to improve turnaround times.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that contact tracing was to be scaled-up and started for suspected cases of Covid-19 before there is a positive test result.

A team of up to 1,400 people is to begin working on the process as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

The focus now will be on a 48-hour period a person had contact with others before symptoms emerged.

Meanwhile, Special Needs Assistants in schools are to be reassigned temporarily to other duties in essential public services as part of the State’s response to the outbreak.

A process has been set up by the Public Appointments Service to put the country’s 16,000 Special Needs Assistants on standby to free up frontline workers for essential services.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said it was keeping in regular contact with up to ten Irish citizens on board a cruise ship where four passengers have died from suspected Covid-19.

In sport, the remainder of the 2019-20 Irish National Hunt racing season has been cancelled, including the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s play-off matches for the European football Championships have been postponed due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.

The decision was made following a video conference meeting of all 55 member associations of the governing body, UEFA.

This summer’s Wimbledon tennis championship has been cancelled, with the prestigious event not returning until 2021.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan was not at this evening’s briefing in the Department of Health.

Dr Holohan has undergone tests in hospital that are unrelated to Covid-19.

Dr Glynn said Dr Holohan expects to be discharged tomorrow morning and to be back at work shortly afterwards.

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