There have been 14 more deaths of people with Covid-19 and 294 new cases, according to new figures released on Saturday.
Meanwhile the Government has published its list of 16 categories of essential workers under the new restrictions , categorised as follows
1. Agriculture and Fishing 2. Manufacturing 3 Repair and installation of machinery and equipment 4. electricity, gas and water 5. Construction 6. Wholesale and retail trade 7. Transport storage and communication 8. Accommodation and food services 9. Information and communications 10. Financial and legal activities 11. Professional, scientific and technical activities 12. Rental and leasing activities 13. Administrative and support services 14. Public administration and defence 15. Human health and social work activities 16. Community/voluntary services.
More detail can be foundhere.
The National Public Health Emergency Team, reporting the new fatalities in the State said all 14 deaths were in the east of the country. The median age of the reported deaths was 81. There have now been 36 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland.
As of 1 pm on Saturday the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been informed of 294 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland. There are now 2,415 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland.
The HSE is now working to identify any contacts the patients may have had had contact with them in the past fortnight.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohasaid; Today, we have our highest recorded number of deaths so far. Our condolences are with the family and friends of all patients who have died as a result of COVID-19.
Meanwhile the Government announced it is establishing community support fora, led by local authorities to help vulnterable memebers of the society, especially those subject to new coronavirus cocooning requirements
The groups are being led by chaired and cooordinated by each local authority chief executive and will include the HSE, the council, An Post, Community Welfare Service, the Garda, other State organisations and charities.
Services will include collection and delivery of food, essential household items, fuel, medication, transport to testing, GPs and hospital appointments. If a vulnerable person needs assistance they can contact 0818 222024
Elizabeth Canavan, assistant secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, speaking at a media briefing now at Government Buildings, said said there would be a grace period until 6pm on Monday for businesses to wind down.
Meanwhile minister for Health Simon Harris has said Ireland is seeing a very concerning situation regarding ICU capacity during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a briefing at his Department on Saturday afternoon, he said there were 71 people in ICU with Covid-19 and that figure would rise.
Respecting the strict new measures announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday night would keep more people out of ICU, he said.
He said he did not like the term cocooning and said that the age of 70 is not old. But he stressed that people over 70 should regard cocooning as a supportive term. He knew it was difficult for them to be asked to stay at home all the time.
Referring to the new measures, Mr Harris said that, being very honest, the measures were so restrictive and so imposing and so challenging that he was not sure they could be sustained for more than the proposed two-week period.
He said the coronavirus crisis would continue for potentially many months but he hoped some progress would be seen by the end of the two-week period.
Mr Harris said a total of 262 nurses had been hired recently.
He said the Irish people have been brilliant throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But it is important that we do have the powers for those that will attempt to disrupt public health, and therell always be one or two, he said.
Earlier, the Government moved to clarify that people can travel beyond 2km of their homes to buy food.
A spokesman stressed that there was no need to panic buy or stockpile groceries and other supplies.
Members of the public are advised that, under the new restrictions announced by the Taoiseach last night, you can travel beyond the 2km limit for food shopping, he said.
No need to do all shopping or stockpile this morning. Food stores and takeaways staying open in the emergency. The 2km is about exercising locally. You can go beyond the 2km to buy food and medicines. The supplies are good. We all have a part to play in rising to this challenge
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) March 28, 2020
There is no need to panic buy or stockpile. Our supplies chains are working well and will continue to do so. The 2km limit relates to physical exercise within your locality.
There were large queues at some supermarkets today.
People have been told to stay at home in virtually all circumstances and all public and private gatherings have been banned for two weeks as part of the Governments latest sweeping measures to tackle coronavirus.
The list of essential workers exempted from the provisions, to be published today, includes those in healthcare, social care, the public and civil service, utilities, necessary goods (food and medicine), financial services, transport and communications, it is understood. Journalists are also expected to be included.
Fianna Fáil criticised the delay in publishing the list.
The partys spokesman on business, enterprise and innovation Robert Troy said: This has created great confusion with people unaware of whether their work is considered an essential service or not.
Of course, many businesses will already know whether they are essential or not but there are others which find themselves in a completely grey area. Are factories which manufacturer for pharmaceutical companies essential or the factories which make pallets which are needed by the big supermarkets?
Key to this question is whether the company can provide the mandatory two meter distance between employees as advised by the HSE.
Greater clarity is urgently needed and the list should have been ready so that businesses could have prepared themselves – they deserve better than this.
Before that, Mr Harris confirmed that construction workers would not be considered essential workers for the duration of the crisis.
On Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh this morning, he said construction workers would only be permitted to continue at work if they were building something that was essential to the pandemic.
So for example if we were to decide that we need to put in modular units or adapt a hotel or build things that we need to actually get through this pandemic of course that would be essential, he said.
Reacting, the Director General of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Tom Parlon said: According to Minister Simon Harris, construction is not deemed as essential service and as such construction workers should stay at home effective from midnight last night.
The Government is finalising a list of essential services to be completed later today that might outline some limited forms of construction essential to combatting Covid-19 directly.
Mr Parlon said that, in the meantime, the CIF was calling on its members to secure construction sites immediately. We recommend that members sending teams to secure sites should call ahead to gardaí to inform them, he added.
As ever, the construction industry is ready to help combat Covid-19 in any way possible. The CIF will continue to engage with Government and the HSE to explore ways the industry can contribute.
Meanwhile, the Government spokesman said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Harris would speak today with medical leaders.
The weekly meeting, chaired by the CMO [chief medical officer], is an opportunity for medical leaders to raise matters with the department. Some will attend in person and others will dial in. Todays meeting will focus on PPE [personal protective equipment] and staffing.
More non-essential shops and services will be closed, non-essential surgery is to stop and a ban on visiting hospitals and other healthcare settings is being imposed except on compassionate grounds.
The only exceptions to the stay-at-home rule is for travel to health, social care or other essential work, shopping for food and takeaways, medical appointments and for vital family reasons such as providing care.
People will also be allowed take brief, individual physical exercise within 2km of their home, and farming will continue.
Major policing
Late on Friday night An Garda Síochána said there would be a major policing operation this weekend to ensure the new restrictions were being complied with. There will be a high visibility Garda presence all over the country involving thousands of gardaí on foot, bike and mobile patrols.
The Garda operation which runs until 7am on Monday will focus on encouraging compliance with the new measures. However, the Garda said they would intervene where groups of people or venues or outlets were ignoring the new restrictions.
The measures were announced shortly after the death of another three people from the virus was announced. The State now has 2,121 cases of Covid-19 and 22 deaths. A healthcare worker was among the three who died on Friday.
Two further people with Covid-19 have died in Northern Ireland, taking the toll to 15, the Norths Public Health Agency said on Saturday.
There were 49 new positive cases of coronavirus confirmed on Saturday in the North, bringing the total number of known cases there to 324.
Shielding, or cocooning, is to be introduced in the Republic for everyone over 70 years of age and other vulnerable categories of people, effectively requiring them to stay at home.
Use of public transport is to be limited to people providing essential services, travel to offshore islands will be limited to residents and pharmacists will be able to dispense medicines even where prescriptions have expired.
These are radical actions aimed at saving as many peoples lives as possible, Mr Varadkar said, announcing the measures in Government Buildings on Friday night. In the days or weeks ahead, were not prisoners of fate, we can influence whats going to happen to us next.
Mr Varadkar appealed to people to give meaning to our freedom by agreeing to the restrictions, restricting how we live our lives, so that others may live.
Im asking us for a time to forgo our personal liberties and freedoms for a greater cause. And Im appealing to every man, woman and child in our country to make the sacrifices, not out of self interest, but for the love of each other.
Recommendations
The extra measures are being introduced on foot of recommendations by the National Public Health Emergency Team at its meeting earlier on Friday.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said NPHET was concerned about increases in the numbers of cases, ICU admissions and deaths, as well as the emergence of 10 clusters of the disease in nursing homes.
The number of cases is doubling roughly every four days, which is somewhat better than was forecast at the start of the outbreak.
Up to last Wednesday, 419 patients had been hospitalised with the disease, it said, and 59 of these had been admitted to ICU.
While declining to describe the measures as a lockdown, Mr Varadkar admitted they were very restrictive and added: There isnt much more we can do.
He admitted the measures would be hard to police but said the gardaí have powers to detain people and that penalties can be imposed.
Meanwhile President Michael D Higgins has signed into law the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020.
It gives the Government extensive emergency powers to combat the pandemic and mitigate economic collapse.
The Bill prevents evictions of tenants, imposes a rent freeze, allows restaurants to become takeaways and provides for the rehiring of retired healthcare workers and former soldiers.
It also provides temporary income support schemes by contributing to wage costs to allow employers to continue paying their employees.
President Higgins said it was for a time of crisis and it was appropriate it had time limits and left constitutional rights in place.
Protective equipment
Stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 outbreak are beginning to run low, according to the Health Service Executive. It is currently seeking to redistribute stocks to sites with particular shortages, it said.
A large shipment of PPE is scheduled to arrive in Dublin Airport on Sunday and be distributed in the following days, but it remains unclear if existing supplies will be sufficient to bridge the gap until then.