The Department of Health has said that 29 more people have died after being diagnosed with Covid-19. It brings the total number of deaths to 1,403.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said of those who had died, 69 occurred in an intensive care unit and 86.4% had an underlying medical condition.

A further 137 cases of the virus have also been diagnosed, bringing the number of confirmed cases here to 22,385.

The number of healthcare workers who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 is 6,498.

There are 76 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care.

The Chief Medical Officer said they are seeing a continued pattern of improvement in fighting Covid-19 and that there is continuing reasons for optimism.

He said the country is not where they would like to be and that they will keep things under continued assessment.

By Thursday next week, he said, they will have a good and clear sense of how far we have travelled.

Dr Holohan said the public was staying with advice in terms of behaviour but that there may be a slight drop off as there was more movement from people.

Data is showing a slight drop in the percentage of people staying in, he added.

On whether the Leaving Certificate examination should go ahead, Dr Holohan said it was for the Department of Education and the Minister for Education to determine if it can go ahead in keeping with public health advice.

He said the advice is clear in terms of social distancing and the time people can spend indoors in close proximity to others. He said it is up to the department to determine if they can follow the advice to protect students, examiners and others.

The department knows more about the operation of exams than he does and if his advice is required he will provide it, he said.

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Asked about reports of travellers arriving to ports and airports not completing forms as requested, Dr Holohan said: "As we get closer to a point where we can continue to reduce restrictions, the measures that we have in the airport will become more and more important from our point of view.

"We're giving ongoing consideration to the advice that we need to give around measures at the airport. We've set out some of that already and we're giving specific consideration to that."

Dr Holohan said if Covid-19 was here before the first official case in February, then it would have been sporadic cases. 

He said he doesn't believe we had infection here earlier than that at any significant level. 

He said that for a period of weeks back then we only had single cases being identified.

Number of new cases declining

The chair of the Epidemiological Modelling Group advising the National Public Health Emergency Team has said the country is now in a period where the number of new cases is declining. 

Philip Nolan said for most of April the growth rate of the virus had been very close to zero.

He said there has been some "very considerable progress in the last week" in relation to Covid-19.

Hospital admissions with Covid-19 have reduced from 40 a day or more on average last week to 20 or fewer this week.

The average number of people in intensive care units has fallen from a peak of 140, to 100 last week, to 76 as of this morning.

The average number of people admitted to intensive care units was in the region of four to six people a day every day up to seven days ago. But in the last week it has been two each day.

Overall there has been a reduction in the number of people who need hospital admission or intensive care, he said.

He also said "all the indicators are that the suppression measures have been very effective in suppressing the virus in the population". 

Prof Nolan said overall, there is a greater than 90% confidence that the reproduction rate averaged across the population is between 0.5 and 0.6.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said contact tracing is in a better place than it was two weeks ago. 

He said it is not a simple process and that it is not just a matter of picking up the phone. Some IT systems in place early on were not as robust as they should but that is being addressed, he added.

As of midnight on Tuesday 5 May, Dr Holohan said of the 22,186 cases that had been diagnosed up until then, 2,891 had been hospitalised.

He said there were 406 clusters in residential care settings, 235 of which are in nursing homes.

Dr Holohan said the number of cases diagnosed in residential care settings was 5,485 with 4,309 of those in nursing homes.

The number of people who have died in a residential care setting was 880 as of 5 May. 761 of those were in nursing homes.

Additional reporting Paul O'Flynn