I welcome this opportunity to update the House on Covid-19 and our response to it. First, and most importantly, I wish to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of those we have lost to this disease since this House last met. I am conscious that news bulletins every night are full of statistics and reports of new cases and new deaths but we should never forget that behind every number, every death, is a grieving family, friends, colleagues and a grieving community. That grief is compounded even further by our inability to grieve in the normal ways that we usually do in this country. We think of them today; we think of them every day and we offer our sincere condolences to their families.
Against the backdrop of such tragedy, I can often feel uneasy even discussing progress when it comes to Covid-19 but it is important, if not essential, that we reflect and acknowledge the difference people right across this country have made. Members will remember that when I was here last week I updated the House on the modelling work in relation to this virus. The reproductive rate had fallen to between 0.7 and 1.0. I am very pleased to inform the House today that the reproductive rate has now fallen even further to between 0.5 and 1.0. That means for every one person who contracts Covid-19, we now expect that he or she will spread it to no more than one other person and hopefully, to fewer than that. This progress is a huge tribute to the solidarity shown by the Irish people. However, this number is not static. We have achieved this progress by staying apart and we need to continue to keep that distance. If we continue we will suppress this disease even more. That is our national goal. We must not give up when we are starting to see that what we are doing is working and crucially, is saving lives. There are other encouraging signs as well. The model shows that at the beginning of April, around 100 people per day were being admitted to hospital with the virus. I am pleased to inform the House today that the model now shows that this figure has fallen to around 40 people per day which is quite a significant reduction. The number of people in intensive care is also falling and the number of people being discharged from ICUs is rising. I thank each and every one of our citizens and our front-line staff for all their work and for continuing with us on this difficult path. When better days come, these will be among the reasons we can be proud of our country and our people for the way they have acted in trying to defeat this national and global threat.
The significant number of clusters of Covid-19 in our residential facilities is the area of greatest concern and we have put in place significant measures to protect residents and staff. These measures include infection prevention and control teams, active screening of all staff and ensuring PPE supply to long-term residential care settings and home support providers. A total of 18 Covid-19 response teams across the country, each one led by senior nursing supports, are now assisting nursing homes and long-term residential facilities with senior clinical expertise, infection prevention and control and public health input in preventing and crucially, in managing those clusters. We have established a financial assistance scheme for nursing homes which is open for applications. As already mentioned, now that we have additional testing capacity, and I commend the HSE on its excellent work on this, we are now prioritising the testing of staff and residents in these facilities.
By the end of today, 18,000 tests will have been carried out in long-term residential facilities. I thank the National Ambulance Service for the heroic work it has done since this work started last Friday. Tonight, I will meet again with HIQA, the HSE and the Chief Medical Officer to keep a continued focus on this area.
I am aware there has been much speculation and discussion surrounding the potential easing of restrictions from May. I understand why. It is human nature. It is what keeps many of us going, that need for a light at the end of the tunnel - families missed and friends missed, the simple things in life that we took for granted that we now really miss. I promise that we will set out the next steps, but I need people to keep focused on the here and now because the here and now matters. What we do in the next few days matters. For the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, to make these decisions, all of us as a people have a job to do . This involves staying the course, sticking with it, washing one's hands, coughing into one's elbow, social distancing and cocooning and protecting oneself. These are things which, perhaps, we are tired of hearing and saying but they are things that are vital in the next 12 days.
Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease. We are fortunate that the measures we have taken are reducing that infectivity but we are by no means in a safe place. It is important to stress that we are not in a safe place. If we had to decide on lifting measures today for tomorrow the Chief Medical Officer advises me he would not be in a position to recommend any change but we are working on a roadmap, which we will finalise over the next week. This will allow us to have a frank and honest conversation with each other about the weeks and months ahead, one that must acknowledge that increased movement carries increased risk. There is a very thin line between where we could have been, where we are and where we may yet be in regard to this virus.
When I think of the roadmap, I think of it as a new social contract between Government and the people, a way to try to get our country back on track. This will require the involvement of every part of Irish society. It will demand communication and honesty from us on the public health risks and, also, consideration of the mental and physical wellbeing of all of our people. I wish I could tell the people right now what the future holds. We all crave that certainty, but it is too soon. The coming days matter. They will shape our future so please stay the course and please stay at home.