There has been a sharp fall in attendance at emergency departments since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, according to new research.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has found that there were 45.4% fewer emergency department attendances per day in the week ending 29 March than there had been in the week ending 1 March.

The fall was even more prevalent in younger age groups.

The drop in the more serious cases, classified as very urgent, was 27%, compared with a 32% decline in less urgent attendances.

The ESRI has said the timing of the reductions suggest that the public may be concerned about contracting Covid-19 at health facilities, or fear they would be adding pressure to the health services by attending.

It said the public must be encouraged not to ignore symptoms and to attend emergency departments when they need treatment.

Meanwhile, the National Public Health Emergency is meeting to discuss the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in some meat processing plants across the country.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys has said the Health and Safety Authority conducted more than 240 onsite workplace inspections over three days this week.

Speaking in the Dáil last night she said these inspection included meat factories and that a high level of compliance was found.

Last night, the Department of Health said 12 more people with Covid-19 had died in Ireland.

There have now been 1,583 Covid-19 related deaths here.

A further 76 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 24,391.