The number of people who have died after being diagnosed with Covid-19 has risen by 38, bringing the death toll to 444.

The number of additional cases of the virus diagnosed here is 657. In addition, a further 411 cases of coronavirus were confirmed from the backlog of tests at the laboratory in Germany.

This brings the total number of additional cases to 1,068.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Ireland is now 12,547.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the increase in the number of cases being diagnosed was a result of more testing, and not because the disease is changing its behaviour.

In relation to the people who have died, 284 or 64% occurred in hospital. In 84% of cases there was an underlying condition. The median age is 82.  

The median age of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is 48 years.

As of Monday 15 April, the number of people hospitalised with the virus was 1,968 (18%). Of those hospitalised, 280 cases have been admitted to ICU.

The number of healthcare workers who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 stands at 2,872.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan said there are 250 clusters of cases of Covid-19 in residential and community settings, 159 of those are in nursing homes.

He said the Public Health teams have reported 290 deaths which are associated with those clusters. he said 245 deaths have been in nursing homes.

Dr Holohan said they will be looking at lowering the criteria for testing possibly next week.  

He said if they wanted to consider relaxing any of the restrictions that are in place, they would need to have a more sensitive case definition for testing and be 'comfortable' they could continue to test and carry out contact-tracing as needed. 

An update on modelling will be provided tomorrow.

Dr Holohan said in terms of lifting restrictions, we need to be in a position where we can track the rate of infection before we do that.

He said there is a chance that as we begin to introduce some relaxation that people might be one step ahead of us - as they were in the early days of the introduction of restrictions - and go ahead to plan get togethers.  

He said nursing homes have been identified as a priority area and that work was being done even before Ireland had a case of Covid-19.

Dr Holohan said for the most part we have made significant moves to stop the growth of the disease.

Read more:
Virus kills two hospital workers and nine die in one care centre
Deal reached to re-deploy health care staff to private nursing homes
Northern Ireland Covid-19 restrictions extended until May

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Around 80% of cases of Covid-19 will be a mild to moderate illness, close to 14% have severe disease and around 6% are critical.

Generally, you need to be 15 minutes or more in the vicinity of an infected person and within two metres of them, to be considered at-risk, or a close contact.

Dr Holohan said we need to start to resume the provision of health services, adding that we should now start to 'switch back on' elective activity in health service and that some people on lists could now be seen by doctors. 

He said if anyone has a concern about an illness or symptoms of any health issue, they should be contacting their GP and hospitals - that it is the health services job to keep the public from getting Covid-19 while in a healthcare setting.

Asked about reinfection, Dr Holohan said there is a good chance people are likely to be immune if they have had Covid-19, however there is no test yet so it can't be taken as a given.  

He said the department hopes to be in a position to send out surveys across the population that would be done ahead of a test to see if people are immune. But, he said, the test is yet to be created.  

Dr Holohan said Ireland was incredibly lucky not to have Covid-19 arrive here along with flu season. He said flu season peaked in early January and that rates of flu are now very low. 

He said there is a plan to "greatly extend" this years flu vaccination programme later in the year.  

And he said they hope to increase and encourage far greater numbers of healthcare workers to get the flu vaccine this year.

Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, the National Clinical Adviser and Group Lead for Mental Health said it's very important people don't ignore any other health issues they have and that there were systems in place to separate those with Covid-19 in healthcare settings. 

Asked about the psychological difficulty for the current restrictions for the over-70s who are cocooning, Dr Holohan said it wouldn't be appropriate to lift those restrictions without a control of the disease in the community.