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Dr Ronan Glynn at this evening's briefing. Sasko Lazarov/
close contacts

'It's not surprising there's confusion': Glynn aims to provide clarity on 'two-hours-in-a-room' guidance

If someone attended a two-hour meeting and was then diagnosed, others in the room could be considered close contacts and have to self-isolate.

DEPUTY CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said the two-hour guidance on spending time in a room with others isn’t the same as saying that businesses around the country are being discouraged from having people in the same room for more than two hours. 

Dr Glynn emphasised that it would be up to a public health doctor to determine if someone could be considered a close contact of a person who contracted Covid-19.

If a person spent two hours or more in a room with someone who subsequently was confirmed to have the virus, it could be the case they would be considered a close contact and would have to isolate for 14 days. 

He told this evening’s Department of Health briefing that it’s “not surprising there’s confusion” on the matter because it’s “quite technical”. 

Earlier today, the Courts Service said it would be limiting time in court to just two hours a day, after public health advice given to TDs about whether they can conduct committees at the moment.

TDs were told they can spend no longer than two hours in the Dáil chamber – even if each person is at least two metres apart -  in order to comply with public health advice. If they spend more than two hours together indoors, they may be considered close contacts.

Dr Glynn was asked about this this evening, and said he wasn’t privy to the advice given to the Oireachtas as that had come from the Heath Protection Surveillance Centre within the HSE.

He said that, more generally, when someone was confirmed to have Covid-19, a public health doctor would examine interactions they had with others to determine who they may have come into close contact with.

Depending on the size of a room, and the ventilation within it, the doctor would make a judgement on whether someone they had spent time in a room with could be considered a close contact. 

“If you’ve had a meeting for more than two hours and one of those people is subsequently confirmed [to have been diagnosed with Covid-19], it may have implications for everyone in the room at the time,” he said. 

It’s not the same as saying every business and organisation in the country can’t have people in the same room for more than two hours.

He said in such a case it would be likely that at least some of the people in the same room at the time would be considered close contacts.

When someone is determined to be a close contact of a confirmed case, they are advised to self-isolate for up to 14 days and are tested for Covid-19.

Dr Glynn said that his message to employers would be to limit contact between employees to minimise the risk of them catching and spreading Covid-19. He said that by keeping any meetings to less than two hours this would minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

“Everything we’re doing is a balance of risk and benefit,” he said. “It’s the same for all sectors of society.”

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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