MORE than 3,500 lives may have been saved by the coronavirus restrictions, Health Minister Simon Harris has told the Dáil.
But he cautioned “we must finish the job” and “stay united” if we want to continue to save lives.
Mr Harris’s remarks come as the government is tomorrow expected to set out a roadmap for easing restrictions.
He said that when the restrictions were first announced the virus was spreading faster with an ‘R’ rate of 2.4.
Now that is down to between 0.5 and 0.8 meaning that less than one additional person is being infected by someone who has coronavirus.
Mr Harris said that if the higher rate had continued 4,800 people would have lost their lives by now and there would be 2,200 people seriously ill in critical care units.
He said that “very sadly” 1,190 people have died but the modelling suggests that thanks to the “incredible efforts” of the Irish people, more than 3,500 lives have been saved.
Mr Harris said: “That is 3,500 reasons to stay at home, 3,500 reasons to stay the course and 3,500 reasons to keep with us on this journey.”
He said progress has been made but that can’t mask the reality that up to 40 people-a-day are still being hospitalised and three to four are entering intensive care units (ICUs).
Mr Harris said: “We must finish the job. If we want to give the country the very best chance of success, we must continue with the work.
“If we want to continue to save lives, we must stay united. We must stick together.”
He said he understands “fatigue” with the restrictions but “we must remain cautious and we must remain vigilant – as individuals and together as a country.”
Mr Harris said: “I know that people want us to map out what the next phase looks like for Ireland and we will tomorrow.”
He said: “We will provide a clear sense of direction but in the meantime our collective objective remains to suppress this virus.
“We must do everything we can to stay safe and protect each other.”