A group of officials are working on establishing temporary mortuary facilities to deal with expected deaths from Covid-19.

At a briefing at Government Buildings, Liz Canavan, assistant secretary for social policy at the Department of the Taoiseach, said the issue was very sensitive.

"We are still in the preparation phase to deal with the surge when it comes," she said.

At the briefing, Ms Canavan also said that the construction industry had been given 48 hours to comply with social distancing guidelines.

She said each building site had to have a designated person to ensure compliance with social distancing.

Ms Canavan also said the Government was still trying to help 2,000 Irish citizens abroad return home.

She added that 160 departed from Perth, Australia last night.

The National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting again today to consider a new risk assessment and guidelines for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will also consider warnings from the European Centre for Disease Control that the intensive care system here may not be able to cope with rising numbers of coronavirus patients in critical condition.

Last night, the Department of Health announced that two more patients who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 had died, bringing the total number of deaths in Ireland to nine.

There were an additional 235 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland and 1,564 in total.

Many of the new ECDC measures have already been included in the raft of social distancing and other changes implemented by the Government on Tuesday.

The group will review all of that and ask what else could be done here in the event that more action is needed.

The ECDC report warns that the risk of severe Covid-19 disease for older Europeans and people with chronic underlying conditions is very high.

It said the rate of severe illness for Europeans aged over 60, hospitalised with Covid-19 infection, is almost four times higher than for the general population, and that death has occurred in 12% of those cases.

Around 80% of cases of Covid-19 will be a mild to moderate illness.

It also said that Covid-19 patients in critical condition need specialised care for on average more than two weeks and that healthcare systems may not cope.

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HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the HSE would consider whether some hospitals should be designated as Covid-19 hospitals.

However, he said it would be very difficult to designate hospitals in this way, given the way they are currently configured.

PPE equipment to start arriving on Sunday

The first batch of a massive order for Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers placed by the HSE will start arriving here from China on Sunday afternoon.

The overall HSE order for this essential equipment is worth €200 million. 

The amount of protective equipment is so large that it is going to require ten flights just to deliver the first batch of the order, which is valued at €30m. 

In all, the €200m order has been broken into five batches for delivery and up to 300 flights (or the equivalent) backwards and forwards to China will be required between now and the end of May to complete the delivery.

It is the first of the ten flights needed for the first batch of equipment that that will arrive in Ireland on Sunday.

Meanwhile, figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show that most people who were infected with Covid-19 abroad were infected in Italy.

Up until midnight of Sunday, 61 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed from people who picked it up in Italy.

Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with the northern region of Lombardy the worst affected.

The HPSC said 44 cases were diagnosed in people who were infected in the UK, 39 cases were diagnosed in people who were infected in Austria, 20 cases originated in Spain, while 13 cases came from France.

The analysis is contained in a HSPC report, which details information on 965 cases up until Sunday midnight.

It said there have been four clusters in nursing homes, six in hospitals and two in the workplaces.

It also says of the 247 cases relating to healthcare workers, 63% had no history of foreign travel in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms.