(Reuters)

Ireland has reached a “more difficult phase” of Covid-19 as the country marks six months since the first case was detected, the head of its health service has said.

There have been a total of 1,777 coronavirus deaths 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 its department of health show that Ireland recorded its highest death toll on April 20, when 77 people died from the virus.

After health officials confirmed the first case on February 29, there have since been 28,720 people diagnosed with Covid-19.

Ireland hit its highest number of cases in one day when 936 were recorded on April 23.

Health Service Executive (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 chief medical officer Dr Ronan 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.

A total of 142 new cases of Covid-19 and no further deaths were reported by the Department of Health today.

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