Two healthcare workers at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny have died after testing positive for Covid-19, the hospital has confirmed.

A spokesperson for the Ireland East Hospital Group, which includes the general hospital in Kilkenny, said that two healthcare workers, who were employed as support staff at St Luke’s, had died.

"We wish to give our sincere condolences to their family, friends and colleagues," she said.

There was no further comment.

It is understood that the health workers are a man and a woman and they died within the last two days.

SIPTU's Health Division has expressed its condolences to the families of the two health workers, who were 

Health Division Organiser Paul Bell, said: "We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of our two deceased members.

"The colleagues of these two workers as well as the members and staff of the union’s health division are deeply shocked by their deaths.

"These workers have made the ultimate sacrifice while assisting in the fight against Covid-19," he said.

Earlier, the Health Service Executive moved to reassure the public after nine patients died in a three day period last weekend at a residential centre in Co Laois - with eight testing positive for Covid-19.

The deceased were aged between 66 and 84 years old.

Additional staff have been brought into the Maryborough Centre for Psychiatry of Old People in Portlaoise to help care for the 17 patients who remain there.

Formerly known as St Fintan's Hospital, the Maryborough Centre is a recently refurbished unit with 28 beds in Portlaoise.

Arising from public concern in the last number of days RTÉ News asked the HSE about staffing levels there and it was confirmed that nine patients died at the facility last weekend.

There has been concerns in the local area for several days about the availability of personal protective equipment and additional nursing staff at the hospital.

But in a statement, the HSE said that while a number of staff are currently on sick leave, a number of additional workers were redeployed to the centre in the week prior to Easter following the diagnosis of Covid-19 in the residential group there.

The HSE said that all 17 residents are being managed as if they are Covid-19 positive regardless of test results for the presence of symptoms.

In a statement, the HSE said: "The HSE would like to express its sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased.

In recent days the community in Portlaoise has rallied to provide additional PPE for the nurses and staff of the Maryborough centre where 8 people died after testing positive for Covid 19 last weekend. The extra gear was delivered to St Fintan's Hospital today. More @rtenews

— Ciaran Mullooly (@ciaranmullooly) April 15, 2020

"Staff at the centre are in contact with the families of the deceased and are available for support and advice.

"All residents have been medically reviewed by medical consultants from Portlaoise hospital. These medical consultants and a palliative care consultant continue to provide daily/as required intervention in conjunction with the consultant psychiatrist and nursing staff.  

"Support was also provided by experts in Infection Prevention Control and Occupational Health.
"Occupational supports and debriefing are being offered to staff at the centre following these tragic deaths."

Addition reporting: Ciaran Mullooly