Ireland has suffered its biggest rise yet in new cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours with 191 another infected.
The daily number of new cases has now rocketed in the past week as the surge in patients presenting to GP for testing has continues unabated.
Patients can be waiting up to five days after being referred by their GP for a test to the point where they give a swab and they face another wait of up to forty eight hours for a result.
They need to self isolate once their GP deems them a suspected case for the virus.
A third death has also been reported.
No underlying condition was reported in the latest patient death.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, said the deceased was a woman from the east of the country
“I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of this patient,” Dr Holohan said.
“It is too early to see any impact of our social distancing measures. This data underscores the importance of younger people to rigorously follow public health advice and social distancing measures.”
Clusters of infection are being seen among staff in healthcare settings.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said it appeared a younger cohort are picking up the infection and the median age is 43 years.
Young people may become a source of transmission rather than suffer the worst effects, he said.
They can carry the infection to an older grandparent or somebody who is frail.
The latest data from HPSC, as of midnight Tuesday 17 March (350 cases), reveals that of the 350 cases notified, 55pc are male and 43pc are female.
31pc of cases have been hospitalised, while 2pc (7 cases) were admitted to ICU.
84 cases are associated with healthcare workers, 28 of whom are associated with foreign travel.
Dublin has the highest number of cases at 172, followed by Cork (62) and Limerick (14).
Of those for whom transmission status is known, community transmission accounts for 35pc, local transmission/ close contact accounts for 21pc, travel abroad accounts for 43pc; 71 remain under investigation.
Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health Medicine, HSE; “Healthcare workers are at the frontline of this pandemic.
“While it is heartening to see social distancing measures taken seriously across society, this must continue in order to protect the most vulnerable and support our healthcare staff throughout this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy rose in the last 24 hours by 427 to 3,405, overtaking the total number of deaths so far registered in China, officials said on Thursday.
Thursday’s figure represented a slight improvement on the day before, when Italy recorded 475 deaths.
Some 3,245 people have died in China since the virus first emerged there late last year. Italy’s outbreak came to light in the north of the country on February 21.
Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday that it is impossible to predict when the Government will start advising older and vulnerable people to remain “cocooned” indoors as was signalled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Systems are being worked on to ensure they will get food, supplies and be checked on.
Older people without family and social support are urged to give their details to their local Garda station where gardaí will help out collecting prescriptions and other supports .
However, providers said over 800 existing people who receive HSE-funded homecare are choosing to self-isolate – including from their home carers.
It is creating a crisis in income for home carers as the HSE will only pay them for the first two days of their client’s self-isolation.
Mr Harris said for now the advice is “if you’re an older person, if you’re a person with an underlying medical condition do try and stay at home as much as possible”.
“Get out and get the exercise, but in general try and stay at home as much as possible.”
While Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said projections that between 450,000 and 500,000 could lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could be accurate.
Ms Doherty said that what happened over the course of several months during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 had now “happened over the last three days”.
She said the Government are “looking at everything” when asked about the possibility of introducing a universal basic income or a one-off payment to workers of more than €1,000 as has been floated by US President Donald Trump in recent days.
Asked about projections that between 450,000 and 500,000 people may find themselves out of work in the coming weeks, Ms Doherty said “it could be potentially as drastic” as those figures. “I mean we haven’t overused the word unprecedented in the past few days but it has been that,” she said.
Outlining the numbers who could be affected by the crisis, she said there are 140,000 people employed in the hospitality sector, 54,000 in the accommodation sector and 200,000 in retail. “These are just the obvious industries that may have affected but there are other businesses,” she said.
“Every single day there is another industry that I didn’t think was going to be affected yesterday is affected today. So the numbers could potentially be as high as people are saying.”
She was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday where the Government outlined supports available to businesses and employees impacted.