The Department of Health has confirmed the deaths of ten more people diagnosed with Covid-19, and a further 255 new cases.

It brings the total number of deaths in Ireland to 19.

To date, 13 males and 6 females with the virus have died. The median age among those is 79.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 now stands at 1,819.

The latest data breakdown of the figures relates to 1,383 confirmed cases recorded up until Tuesday night, 24 March.

It shows there are 66 clusters of the infection, including nine clusters in nursing homes, eight clusters in hospitals and two in "community and long stay environments".

So far, 55% of people with the virus are male, and 45% are female.

Dublin has the largest amount of infections, accounting for 56% of cases, followed by Cork at 11%.

Overall, 23% of all those with the virus are healthcare workers.

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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, within 1-2 metres, to be considered at-risk or a close contact.

Pandemic 'still at an early stage'

Following this evening's announcement, which effectively doubled the death rate linked to Covid-19 in this country, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that he expects to see more deaths.

Dr Holohan said that most of the people to have died after being diagnosed with the virus died in "nursing home or hospital settings".

He believes we are still at an early stage in this pandemic, but added that it is "different to pandemics we've seen before".

Dr Holohan said that if the number of cases of the virus continues to increase, then sadly, the number of deaths will increase too.

Ireland is preparing for situations that we witnessed in other countries, he added.

"We don't necessarily expect that's what's going to happen. We're not predicting that's what's going to happen. But it's important that we prepare properly for the eventualities that might arise," he said.

Health authorities say that certain patterns around intensive care admissions and clusters of infection in healthcare settings are concerning.

Dr Holohan said that the clusters in nursing homes and community healthcare settings involve patients and residents who are "particularly vulnerable and so that is a concern to us".

Up until midnight on Tuesday, 47 patients with the virus had been admitted into ICU. Dr Holohan said that the day-on-day rate of admissions is increasing.

Meanwhile, the National Public Health Emergency Team has agreed a set of principles that could see certain hospitals designated as non-Covid hospitals.

Chief Clinical Officer at the Health Service Executive Dr Colm Henry said that these hospitals could carry out essential work such as surgery, cancer care and treat patients for heart attack or stroke.

Dr Henry said it would be difficult to designate a hospital as non-Covid outside the large urban areas, and so the priority is to ensure that patients with the virus are isolated or segregated if they are in larger numbers.

In response to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control report, which raised concerns about Ireland's capacity to cope with a rise in cases in our hospitals, Dr Henry said he wanted to assure people the HSE is making contingency plans.

He said these plans were around ICU, acute beds and for "new types of care" in the community so that they could facilitate "early discharges".

But he said he wanted to remind the public that every time someone complies with measures that have been introduced, such as physical distancing, "they can save a life and prevent someone from getting critically ill".