The Department of Health has reported 17 more deaths from Covid-19 in Ireland, bringing the overall death toll to 137.

It said 331 more cases of the coronavirus had also been diagnosed, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 4,604.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said that of the 17 deaths recorded, 15 were located in the east, 1 in the south and 1 in the west of the country. 

The patients included 4 women and 13 men. 13 of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions. 

The median age of today's reported deaths is 77. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "This week, the National Public Health Emergency Team made a range of recommendations to support the response in nursing homes and long-term residential facilities to Covid-19. This remains a priority for our focused attention and we will continue to monitor the rate of infection within these environments and support the sector through this outbreak.

"The nationwide, collective effort to limit the spread of Covid-19 has been inspiring. We must keep up this effort, continue to protect the vulnerable in our society and ultimately flatten the curve." 

Earlier today, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced a range of new measures to support nursing home residents.

Nursing home staff are to have their temperatures checked twice a day, as part of the new measures to tackle the coronavirus in these settings. 

Forty clusters of infection have been identified in nursing homes so far - the majority in the east of the country.

According to the HPSC, a cluster is three or more cases in an institution within a 72-hour period.

National and regional Covid-19 infection prevention and control teams are being set up, and advisers will liaise with each nursing home and homecare providers on this. 

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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.

In Northern Ireland, the number of people who have died after contracting the virus has risen by eight to 56, health officials said today.

Testing has resulted in 94 new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the North to 998.