DUBLIN (Reuters) – The average number of daily hospital admissions in Ireland related to COVID-19 has halved in the past week as the country makes “considerable progress” on suppressing the disease, the head of government’s infection modelling team said on Thursday.

Ireland is planning to begin easing measures designed to suppress infections on May 18, but the government has said any changes would depend on progress curbing the spread of the disease.

The average number of patients infected with COVID-19 being admitted to hospitals has fallen to an average of under 20 per day from 40 a week ago, Philip Nolan, Chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said.

The average number of daily admissions of COVID-19 patients to intensive care has fallen from 4-6 people per day a week ago to fewer than two per day during the past week, he said.

“There has been very considerable progress in the course of the past week,” Nolan told reporters, noting that the reproduction rate of the disease, which measures the average number of people each confirmed case passes the disease on to, was 0.5 down from a peak of more than 5.

Ireland on Thursday reported 137 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily increase since March. There have been a total of 22,385 confirmed cases and 1,403 deaths in Ireland caused by the disease.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries. Editing by Jane Merriman)