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Covid-19 case in Republic of Ireland: Here are the main points you need to know

A school in Dublin has been closed in response to the Covid-19 case in Ireland.

Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

THE FIRST CASE of the Covid-19 coronavirus has been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.

It comes after the first case in Northern Ireland was confirmed on Thursday night. 

Here’s everything you need to know. 

What’s happened? 

The Department of Health’s National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed the case in a statement issued shortly before 9pm last night. 

The patient is a student in a school based in Glasnevin, Dublin 9. 

He is believed to have travelled to Ireland from an area in Italy where coronavirus has been detected. 

He is currently receiving medical care.  

The National Public Health Emergency Team statement said the case “is associated with travel from an affected area in northern Italy, rather than contact with another confirmed case”.

Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, said that the case was “not unexpected”.

He said the patient had followed advice issued by authorities and that this enabled the diagnosis to be made.

The patient travelled through Dublin Airport. The Department of Health is not commenting on which mode of transport was used by the patient after he left the airport. 

Holohan said in a briefing last night that officials had to be careful about the information they shared to protect patient confidentiality.

“We have nothing to hide but something to protect,” when it comes to a patient’s confidentiality, he said. 

Now what? 

This evening at a media briefing at 5.30pm, the Department of Health said that a school in the east of the country will close for 14 days in response to the confirmed case of Covid-19. 

The school is in Dublin and the patient is a student at the school. 

Holohan confirmed this evening that the HSE is still working to identify all the people who may have come into close contact with the patient. 

All pupils and teachers are being asked to restrict their movements until the end of the incubation period.

“It’s a large school in numbers terms,” he said, without identifying the school. But TheJournal.ie understands that the school is in Dublin.

The Department of Education said:

The closing of this school was a decision made on public health grounds after risk assessment deemed it appropriate. All other schools will remain open. The Departments will continue to communicate with all schools on this issue.

This afternoon, Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer in the department, told the This Week programme on RTÉ Radio One that contact tracing is something that public health officials have been doing for years. 

Glynn said the process is about ensuring that people who need information are provided with it.   

“What I can say is that the people, in the first instance the doctors who need to have this information, have this information. And they will be contacting the contacts, who need to have more information,” Glynn said.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Has Ireland’s response to the crisis changed in light of this case? 

Aside from the efforts to contact people who have been in contact with this specific patient, in general the approach remains unchanged. 

This evening, Holohan said that contact tracing is still ongoing. 

But he was clear that this incident doesn’t move Ireland from the containment to the mitigation phase of response to Covid-19. 

No other schools are being told to close and no restrictions on flights from northern Italy are being introduced. 

Dr Cillian De Gascun, virologist and chair of the HSE’s Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group, said last night:

Nothing really changes for Ireland, we’re still in the containment phase.

In a statement last might Health Minister Simon Harris said he had notified Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of the case and urged people to heed the advice of health officials. 

Earlier yesterday the Taoiseach and Harris held a conference call with Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill and health officials from either side of the border to discuss the all-island response to the crisis. 

What’s the latest advice from the HSE? 

The HSE’s main advice page on the coronavirus has been changed overnight to note the new case. 

In a section detailing the risk of catching the virus, the latest advice says:

The risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland is still low. This may change. However, most people may continue to go to work, school and other public places, as usual.

Anyone who knows they have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and has symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever) should:

  • Isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone
  • Phone their GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112, or 999
  • In a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

Close contact means either:

  • Face-to-face contact
  • Spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person
  • Living in the same house as an infected person

More details on how to protect yourself from Covid-19 are available on the HSE website

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

What’s the latest travel advice? 

These are the places where there has been a spread of Covid-19: 

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • the following regions in Italy – Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna or Piedmont

People who have been to one of the areas listed here in the last 14 days and who are feeling well are being advised to carry on with their normal routine (more here from the HSE). 

People who have been to one of those areas and who are not feeling well are advised to: 

  • Phone your GP or local emergency department (ED) without delay.
  • Do not go to your GP or ED. Phone them first. If you do not have a GP, phone 112 or 999.
  • Tell them about your symptoms. Give them the details about your situation.
  • Avoid contact with other people by self-isolating.

Symptoms include: cough, shortness of breath, fever

You can find the latest Department of Foreign Affairs travel advice here

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

When will we know more?

From now on, there will be a briefing every day for the media on Covid-19. 

We will hear more from public health officials tomorrow. 

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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