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Community transmission, Trinity College case and Cork hospital cancellations: Today's Covid-19 main points

Seven new cases were confirmed by the Department of Health last night.
Mar 6th 2020, 8:25 AM 245,756 191

Updated Mar 6th 2020, 4:40 PM

COVID-19 91 Advice at Dublin Airport. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

CONFIRMED CASES OF the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Republic of Ireland more than doubled yesterday with the first case of community transmission also confirmed. 

The seven new cases confirmed by the Department of Health last night bring the number of confirmed cases in the Republic to 13. Three cases have also been detected in the North. 

Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Seven new cases bring total in Republic of Ireland to 13
  • First case of community transmission (not related to foreign travel)
  • Cork University Hospital cancelling outpatient appointments, some staff self-isolating
  • University Hospital Limerick also seeking to trace contacts, and this afternoon announced a visiting ban across its six hospital sites. It has also announced that all elective surgeries and outpatients appointments across its six sites are cancelled on Monday and Tuesday of next week
  • Healthcare workers returning from high risk areas told not to go to work
  • Trinity College Dublin confirms cases, closes section of campus
  • The Mater Hospital in Dublin is requesting that the public do not visit the hospital
  • Guidance on mass gatherings to be published, St. Patrick’s Day parade in Youghal, Co Cork is cancelled
  • Minister Simon Harris has hit out at those seeking to profiteer from the crisis, as well as those spreading misinformation online
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed this evening that there is currently no recommendation to cancel mass gatherings at this stage. 
  • Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has she said will not travel to the US for St Patrick’s Day given her “current circumstances”
  • Visitor restrictions have been ordered for nursing homes nationwide
  • Restaurants call for support after 80% cancellations of corporate bookings
  • Samples taken from an elderly patient who died in Milton Keynes hospital in the UK are being investigated for coronavirus.
  • The number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK as of 7am on Friday has risen to 163 from 115.

What’s happened?

The Department of Health provided an update yesterday evening on the development  of Covid-19 in Ireland and the response to it. Seven new cases were confirmed. 

Four of the new cases are males in the east of the country and relate to travel from northern Italy. 

Two new cases relate to females in the west of the country and are associated with close contact with a confirmed case. Previously, a family of four in the west were confirmed to have the coronavirus

The final new case confirmed last night is the first case of community transmission in the country. 

Community transmission means infections within a population are not imported from another virus-hit area or from another known confirmed case of the virus in Ireland. 

This case of community transmission relates to a male in the south of the country who had been in Cork University Hospital. 

004 COVID Press Briefing Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Speaking about the first case of community transmission within Ireland, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer with the Department of Health said that, at present, health authorities can’t explain how it took place. 

“As things stand we’re not able to explain how that particular case has arisen. And that gives rise to the possibility that there is some community transmission, but it is a single case,” he said. 

This is what we would have anticipated we’ve had a number of cases imported into this country as a result of exposure to a significant outbreak, widespread community transmission that’s now happening in the north of Italy. And so we’ve anticipated that, it pretty much matches the pattern of most countries experience across Europe in terms of importation of cases from that part of Europe, in other words from northern Italy, so it’s not a surprise to us.

Response

Cork University Hospital 

As a result of that first case of community transmission, Cork University Hospital said last night it was introducing strict visitor restrictions and cancelling all outpatient appointments today. 

“This is in the interest of patient care and in order to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital,” the hospital said. “All infection control measures are in place and every effort is being made to manage and contain the spread of infection.”

The hospital stressed that appointments would be “rescheduled as soon as possible”.

The hospital has been carrying out a risk assessment and Liam Woods, the HSE’s National Director of Acute Operations, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that anyone who may have had contact with the patient at the hospital has been contacted.

Some staff have been asked to self-isolate. 

“The contact tracing in Cork has been completed and our public health department has engaged in that so that work is done.

“The procedure is clear, so any person who is a contact is asked to voluntarily self-isolated and that has happened,” he added. 

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

University Hospital Limerick

The UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid West Community Healthcare have also said that they are working with public health officials to identify the contacts of four patients confirmed to have Covid-19 on Wednesday. 

In a statement, the hospital group said these contacts included some people who attended the Emergency Department at UHL on Wednesday of last.

“These patients are currently isolated in hospital and receiving appropriate care. The cases were confirmed on March 4th and public health are now working rapidly to identify any contacts this small cluster may have had in the days prior to this positive result. This work will be completed as quickly as possible,” the statement said. 

Public health colleagues are in the process of informing the relevant contacts and advising on any relevant follow-up actions that may be necessary to protect their own health, that of their families and the community at large. The contacts include patients who attended Zone A (minors) of the Emergency Department in UHL between the hours of 10am and 2pm on Wednesday last, 26 February and they are being contacted directly.

“Patients in any other area of the Emergency Department or the wider hospital are not considered to be contacts.”

In an update at 2pm, UL Hospitals Group said it was implementing a ban on all six of its sites as a precautionary measure in the interests of patient safety.

This affects University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, St John’s Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Ennis Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.

The only exceptions to the ban are parents visiting children in hospital, partners of women at the maternity hospital, people visiting patients at end-of life, people assisting patient with illnesses such dementia, and people visiting patients in critical care.

This afternoon, the group announced that all elective surgeries and outpatient appointments across its six sites are cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, 9 and 10 of March:

Mater Hospital

In a statement this afternoon, the Mater Hospital in Dublin said it was requesting that the public does not visit the hospital at this time.

It said in a statement: “The only visitors who will be allowed on campus are those who are visiting patients in critical care, vulnerable young adults, psychiatric patients or those whose loved ones are receiving end of life care. No children are permitted to visit the hospital under any circumstances.

The visitor restrictions are being put in place for public and patient health reasons to minimise the possible spread of infections. The Mater Hospital has all infection control measures in place and every effort is being made to manage and control the spread of infection.

“All hospital appointments will proceed unless otherwise informed. If you wish to reschedule your appointment please notify the hospital.”

Healthcare workers

Healthcare workers across the country who have returned from high risk areas are also being told not to come into work for two weeks. 

Dr John Cuddihy, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre – a subsection of the HSE, said last night. 

Of the health care workers, those who have come from the higher risk areas in our guidelines, they would include Hubei province in China, Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea, Iran, and the four affected provinces in northern Italy, they would be advised by public health to stay out of work for 14 days, and they will be actively monitored by public health.

“People who have come from the remaining affected areas as defined by the ECDC are allowed to go to work, but they have to be monitored on arrival at work every day to ensure that they don’t have symptoms. And if they were to develop symptoms they have to, like everybody else, excuse themselves and self-isolate,” he added. 

Trinity College

Trinity College Dublin also told students last night that the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed within the college. 

In an email to students and staff after 11pm last night labelled “IMPORTANT EMAIL ABOUT COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) IN TRINITY”, the university said that a section of its Dublin campus has been closed “as a precautionary measure”. 

“We were informed of a positive case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) within Trinity College Dublin late on Thursday night (March 5). We are now working closely with the authorities to ensure that this individual receives the best care possible,” the email said.

“The HSE will trace anyone who has been in contact with the infected individual to ensure they receive any necessary medical attention.

The relevant part of the University (Floor 4 of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute), and the lifts in TBSI, have been closed as a precautionary measure and will be cleaned in accordance with HSE guidelines. 

TCD added that the rest of the university remains open but advised students to “check your emails regularly”.

Restaurants 

The Restaurants Association of Ireland said this morning that members are reporting 80% corporate booking cancellations as a result of Covid-19. 

The group said supports need to be put in place to “keep the restaurant and tourism sector afloat” and specifically called for “an immediate reduction of the VAT rate to 9%”.

“We have a potential recession situation on our hands due to the spread of COVID-19. Irish Food and Restaurant businesses were already struggling to stay afloat throughout 2020 due to the high costs of doing business, but if the OECD predictions come true, Irish businesses are due to fare much worse,” the group’s CEO Adrian Cummins said.

Mass gatherings

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed this evening that there is currently no recommendation to cancel mass gatherings at this stage. 

No final decision has yet been made on the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, with organisers set to meet today to discuss the situation.   

At least one parade has already been postponed with organisers of the parade in Youghal, Co Cork announcing this morning that it will not go ahead. 

Secretary of the Youghal for All committee Helen Heaphy said they wanted to take the decision now to avoid people preparing next week and being disappointed. 

“For the safety of the young and old in the community it was better for us to cancel this year and focus on next year. There’s no point waiting until the last minute because people have their floats ready, the people are all hyped up about going into the parade, and we just felt do it now before people are too involved in doing things for the parade,” Heaphy told C103′s Cork Today Show.  

What’s the latest advice from the HSE?

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The HSE’s main advice page on the coronavirus was changed yesterday afternoon.  

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

The risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland is still low to moderate. This may change. However, most people may continue to go to work, school and other public places, as usual.
According to the most extensive study of the effect of the virus on patients, Covid-19 was benign in 80.9% of cases, “serious” in 13.8% and “critical” in 4.7%. The remaining 0.6% was not specified.

Speaking in Brussels at a meeting of European health ministers today, Simon Harris hit out at those seeking to profit from the Covid-19 outbreak, and also singled out those spreading misinformation online.

“I think there should be special condemnation for two types of people during this crisis,” he said.

0917 Simon Harris Simon Harris spoke at a meeting of other health ministers today in Brussels. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

“Those who seek to profiteer from us by hiking up the prices of things that they know the public seek, particularly like hand sanitizer. We see examples of this in our country already.

And the second group that I think deserve very loud, and very clear condemnation from this meeting today is those who seek to deliberately spread misinformation, disinformation, and downright lies about this virus, they are endangering life.

“They’re making it harder for all of us to do our job and at a time when our public health experts and our health care professionals are working so hard to lead on this response, the idea that anyone would be allowed spread misinformation or disinformation is something we should call out at the European Union and something we should call out as member states.”

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