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Harris says guidelines on mass gatherings expected to be issued tomorrow amid Covid-19 concerns

Meanwhile, a school in Dublin today began its two-week closing period after it was confirmed a pupil was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Minister for Health Simon Harris
Minister for Health Simon Harris
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated Mar 2nd 2020, 7:36 PM

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said guidelines about mass gatherings amid efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 are likely to be published tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters today, Harris said he hopes the National Public Health Emergency Team will tomorrow “be able to finalise its guidelines which then could be issued out to organisations, and we could start a dialogue where necessary to provide help”.

Last week the IRFU agreed to postpone the Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy due to take place on Saturday, 7 March, on foot of advice from the Department of Health.

Harris said the postponement of the match “showed a willingness on our part to step in when we believe there is a risk to public health”.

He said it’s important for health officials “to provide as much guidance and assistance as we can to event organisers, to people who are organising large matches and the likes as well”.

The status of a number of other upcoming Six Nations matches is uncertain, as is the status of some GAA and football matches.

A decision on whether or not to postpone or cancel the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin is set to be taken by the end of this week, according to the Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

An expert sub-group within the National Public Health Emergency Team was established to develop criteria for the risk-assessment of mass gatherings.

These criteria will be based on guidance from the European Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (WHO).

School closed 

Meanwhile, a school in Dublin today began its two-week closing period after it was confirmed a pupil was diagnosed with Covid-19. 

The first case of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland was confirmed in a male patient from Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin, Dublin 9. He had recently returned from northern Italy, which has seen a large number of Covid-19 cases.

The decision to close the school was announced yesterday evening. Health officials have contacted the principal, staff, and parents or guardians of pupils.

This was the second case of the virus on the island of Ireland after a woman was confirmed on Thursday to have been diagnosed with the virus in the North. 

Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the staff and pupils at the school have been asked to “limit social interactions” as much as possible.

A telephone helpline has been established for those involved and a meeting will be held between HSE officers and locals in the area later this evening. 

Holohan said the risk of transmission of the virus “will still be low”. He reassured people that the HSE has the measures in place in the instance that further people fall ill from the virus.

Holohan added that “the vast majority” of those who have contracted Covid-19 abroad, “in particular children”, have a mild infection and recover completely.  

In a statement this evening, the Department of Health’s National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed that Ireland remains in a containment phase.

There is still one confirmed case in the Republic. He is currently in isolation and contact tracing is underway, the Department said. 

The Department confirmed that a letter from the Chief Medical Officer to parents of all school children, across the country, was issued today. 

Part of this letter states: 

“The decision to close the school for 14 days is a precautionary one and arises because pupils and teachers may have had direct contact with the confirmed case.

“However, siblings not attending the school concerned, parents and other members of the community are not regarded as contacts and can continue their daily routines as normal.”

Tweet by @Sean Murray Source: Sean Murray/Twitter

When asked this evening at a press briefing whether there would be any situation where the Department would provide identifying details in a case beyond the details it has provided so far, Dr Tony Holohan said if there was a case where the only means to identify people was to say what mode of transport was used and what time, they may do so. 

Global figures

Globally, the death toll from Covid-19 has now surpassed 3,000 after dozens more recently died at the epicentre of the virus in China. 

The virus has now infected more than 88,000 people and spread to over 60 countries after first emerging in China late last year.

South Korea, the biggest cluster of infections outside China, reported nearly 500 new cases so far today, bringing its total past 4,000.

A second person recently died in the US from Covid-19.  

The WHO has urged all countries to stock up on critical care ventilators to treat patients with severe symptoms of the virus. 

There are now 40 confirmed cases in the UK. 

The first person in Scotland to be diagnosed is a Tayside resident who recently travelled from Italy – the worst-affected country in Europe.

12 new cases were diagnosed in England yesterday and the Health Secretary admitted it was “inevitable” the deadly virus would continue to spread.

British Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock would not rule out following China’s lead in shutting down cities if the Covid-19 outbreak escalates.

Three of the latest cases are family members of a man from Surrey who tested positive on Friday, becoming the first person to contract the virus within the UK.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said another new patient, from Essex, had not recently travelled to an infected area.

He added investigations were ongoing as to whether the patient had contracted it “directly or indirectly” from someone who had recently travelled abroad.

All of the newly identified cases are being investigated and health officials have begun tracing anyone who had close contact with them.

In Iran, the official death toll has been raised to 54 by the country’s Health Ministry as the number of those infected reached 978.

At least seven government officials in Iran have been infected by the virus, including one of its vice presidents and a senior health ministry official. 

With reporting from Órla Ryan, Hayley Halpin, Sean Murray, Jesse Melia, Press Association and AFP

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