A further 142 cases of coronavirus were reported in the State on Saturday as the country marked six months since the first case was detected in the Republic.
The National Public Health Expert Team (NPHET) reported no deaths, the seventh day in a row there has been no additional coronavirus-related deaths reported.
This brings the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to 28,720, with 1,777 deaths from the virus to date.
Of the 142 new cases reported on Saturday, 74 are men and 66 are women, with 69 per cent of the cases under 45 years of age.
Some 32 of the cases are linked to an outbreak or were close contacts of a previous confirmed case, and 19 of the cases arose from community transmission.
Fifty-nine of the cases were in Dublin, 20 in Kildare, which remains under a local lockdown, and 14 cases were in Donegal and Limerick. There were eight confirmed cases in Wexford, and six in Tipperary.
The remaining 21 cases were spread across counties Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Louth, Mayo, Meath and Wicklow. Over the last two weeks there has been confirmed cases in every county in the country except for Leitrim.
The latest case numbers were announced after one of the country’s leading public health experts warned a second national lockdown could not be ruled out if there was a surge in Covid-19.
Dr Cillian de Gascun, the chairman of the National Public Health Expert Team (NPHET) advisory group said the reintroduction of stay-at-home restrictions would be avoided “if at all possible” but they had been shown to work in suppressing the spread of the virus.
It followed a warning by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Wednesday that the country was close to a second national lockdown because the State was at “a tipping point”.
In a statement, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said Saturday “marks six months since our first case of Covid-19. It has been a very difficult time for many and few have been left untouched in some way by the negative effects of this pandemic”.
Dr Glynn said during that time “our frontline workers have stepped up again and again. But underpinning it all has been each person playing their part by making the right choices, many times, each day. Together, we have broken the chains of transmission and flattened the curve,” he said.
“As cases rise again, it is these same behaviours that will once again make the difference, protecting ourselves, our families and our communities,” he said.
Six months since first case
There have been a total of 1,777 people who died with Covid-19 in Ireland, many of them elderly people living in nursing homes.
As the virus gripped the country earlier this year, care homes bore the brunt of its force with hundreds of lives lost.
Figures provided by the Department of Health show that Ireland recorded its highest death toll on April 20th when 77 people died from the virus.
After health officials confirmed the first case on February 29th, there have since been 28,578 people diagnosed with Covid-19.
Ireland hit its highest number of cases in one day when 936 were recorded on April 23rd.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it has been a “a long six months” since the first Covid-19 case confirmed in the State.
“Much learning, hurt, sorrow, grieving and frustration.
“But there’s also been inspirational responses from the public and healthcare workers,” he tweeted.
“A more difficult phase now but the same virus.”
As society eased out of lockdown restrictions, cases have been steadily rising since mid-July prompting acting Dr Glynn to issue warnings about the spike, particularly among young people.
While alarm bells were sounded over the jump in cases, there has been a fall-off in the number of people admitted to hospital and the number of deaths.
There are currently five people in Intensive Care Units and 30 people in hospital with the disease.
The Government on Friday said gardaí will receive tough new powers to shut pubs which break Ireland’s coronavirus rules.
Fines of up to €2,500 or a maximum of six months in prison will be the sanction if bars infringing social distancing regulations refuse to close for a day.
Closure orders could be issued by a district court resulting in a pub being shut for up to 30 days.
Plan to reopen drink-only hostelries have been put on hold again as the government attempts to contain the cases.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar announced a €16 million support package for pubs, bars and nightclubs which are enduring a prolonged wait to raise shutters.
The new initiatives included waiving court fees and associated excise and stamp duties relating to the renewal of pub and other liquor licences and waiver of excise duty on on-trade liquor licences on renewal this year. –Additional reporting PA