Another eight people have died in Ireland after catching coronavirus bringing the death toll to 54, announced the National Public Health emergency team.

A total of 295 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported on Monday in the Republic, with the overall number rising to 2,910.

Six of the eight deaths reported on Monday occurred in the east of the country, one in the south and one in the west.

Five were female and three were male. The median age of the eight victims was 86, while six had underlying health conditions, officials said.

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The figures come after the Irish government reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the pandemic.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the private hospital sector is made up of 19 hospitals and has an estimated bed capacity of just under 2,000 in-patient beds, 600 day-patient beds, 47 ICU beds and 54 high dependency unit beds.

This equates to an increase in capacity of 17%, which is approximately 11,000 extra inpatient beds and 2,300 day beds.

Mr Varadkar made it clear it was not a nationalisation of private hospitals but more expanding the public health response to the pandemic, with ‘private and public sectors learning and growing together and working together in the common good’.

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: ‘As part of the actual plan to urgently ramp up capacity for acute healthcare facilities, an agreement has been reached with the private hospitals association to use their facilities for the treatment of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.

‘The plan is to use private hospitals as part of the public system, as a partnership on a temporary basis to provide essential services.

‘Private hospitals may also be used to undertake urgent non-Covid-19 elective procedures being transferred to these facilities in order to free up capacity and our major public hospitals.

‘The private hospitals also have 1,000 single-patient in-patient rooms, which were very useful for isolation, and the sector has 194 ventilators as well as nine laboratories which will all be available for our use.’

Under the agreement, the HSE will secure 100% of the capacity of private hospitals.

On Monday, Minister for Health Simon Harris met representatives from Nursing Homes Ireland after a total of 22 coronavirus outbreaks were reported in nursing homes.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Harris said: ‘It is a cause for concern that we’ve seen so many clusters of infection in nursing homes and tomorrow the National Public Health Emergency team, chaired by the chief medical officer, will bring forward recommendations for us to consider in relation to what we can do to respond to infection to the virus in the nursing home sector.’

He earlier said that restrictions put on people to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak cannot stay in place for very long and he is concerned about the nation’s mental health.

The restrictions will remain in place for the next two weeks until Easter Sunday when they will be reviewed. Under the restrictions, people are only allowed to leave their home for essential work, to buy food, attend medical appointments, vital family reasons or to take exercise within 2km of their home.

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