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latest figures Coronavirus Ireland: 612 new cases, 6 further deaths as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn says we have 'more concrete reasons for hope'

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There has been a further six deaths linked to Covid-19 in Ireland and 612 new cases of the virus, the Department of Health has confirmed this evening.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said the Covid 19 pandemic has shown "the best of us as a people" despite "unimaginable" loss over the last year.

All of the deaths confirmed this evening occurred in February.

The median age of those who died was 63 years and the age range was 41 - 86 years.

There has been a total of 4,319 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland.

There is now a total of 219,592 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland.

Of the cases notified today: 300 are men and 311 are women, 72pc are under 45 years of and the median age is 32 years old.

There were 289 cases in Dublin, 45 in Limerick, 34 in Longford, 33 in Galway, 26 in Kildare and the remaining 185 cases are spread across 19 other counties.

As of 8am today, 554 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalised, of which 133 are in ICU.

The Department of Health also said that as of February 25, 409,529 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ireland:

Mr Glynn said: “Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ireland last February, our lives have changed in ways we never thought possible.

“More than 6,300 people on our island have lost their lives with COVID-19. We remember them, and their families and friends, as well as the many people who remain seriously ill or who are dealing with long-term health issues because of this disease.

“The response of colleagues across all parts of our health system has been remarkable. We should be extraordinarily proud, and take great heart, from the dedication and resilience which has been – and continues to be - shown by everyone involved in this response.

“Almost all sectors and communities have experienced loss and have been tested in ways unimaginable to us this time last year. This pandemic and the public health response to it has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods. But it has also demonstrated the best of us as a people, working together and buying in as a collective to what has been necessary to protect one another.

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Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer

“Last Spring, we met the challenge presented to us with collective enthusiasm. Ironically, while that enthusiasm has understandably waned and gone, there are more concrete reasons for hope and optimism now than at any time over the last 12 months."

Among the reasons he cited, were:

"We have seen week on week reductions in case numbers over the past six weeks and we are on track to have an incidence which is amongst the lowest in Europe.

The number of people in hospital has fallen by 38% over the past fortnight.

We have an educated and informed public and most people continue to do most of the right things most of the time – overcoming disinformation and playing their part in solidarity with one another.

We have a dedicated and committed health workforce who have consistently stepped up to challenges as they have presented.

"We have three highly effective vaccines with more on the way, supply is ramping up and we are on course to have given about 80% of adults at least one dose by the end of June."

He added: “We still have a way to go. Our case numbers are still far too high and we must continue to do all we can to suppress this disease over the coming weeks. But if we can do this successfully through March, our focus will begin to turn to what we can do, rather than what we cannot.

“Yes, we need to be cautious and yes, there will be challenges over the coming months. But together, through science and solidarity, we will get through this and this pandemic will end."

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has slammed the violent anti-lockdown gathering that took place in Dublin yesterday was as a "riot", not a protest.

Mr Varadkar added that it was "lucky" that no one was seriously injured or killed in the incident.

"It wasn't a protest, it was a riot, and there's no excuse for using that kind of violence to advance a political cause no matter what that cause is. I think we’re just lucky that somebody didn’t get seriously injured or killed," he said.

More than 20 people were arrested and 13 have been charged after crowds protesting Level 5 restrictions gathered in Dublin city centre yesterday.

Three gardai were injured in the clashes, with one garda requiring hospital treatment.

"I have to say, I think the gardaí did an amazing job. They took control of the situation really quickly, got control the situation very quickly thereafter, and the fact that we saw people being brought to court that very night was a really good example of very good and very swift policing," Mr Varadkar told Newstalk's On the Record.

Mr Varadkar added that the current Covid restrictions don't allow for large gatherings, particularly protests of this kind.

"I'm a great believer in free speech and nobody ever wants to ban protests, but gatherings of this nature are not allowed in Level 5 lockdown and while socially distanced protests are possible, this certainly wasn't."

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