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Covid-19 in Northern Ireland: HSE seeking to trace passengers seated near patient on Dublin flight

The Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland confirmed the news this evening.

Officials making the announcement this evening.
Officials making the announcement this evening.

Updated Feb 27th 2020, 10:50 PM

A PERSON HAS been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. 

It is the first confirmed case on the island of Ireland.

The Public Health Agency confirmed the news this evening. 

It’s understood the person travelled from northern Italy to Dublin, and travelled onto Northern Ireland. Health authorities here said this evening that the HSE will seek to contact anyone who sat within two rows of the affected person on the plane. 

Over 100 people have so far been tested in the Republic of Ireland, and no case of coronavirus has been confirmed. 

The Public Healthy Agency said the person diagnosed wasn’t on a school trip. The gender of the person also wasn’t confirmed.

Authorities said they are working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, with the aim of preventing further spread.

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “We have been planning for the first positive case in Northern Ireland and have made clear that it was a question of when not if.

We have robust infection control measures in place which enable us to respond immediately. Our health service is used to managing infections and would assure the public that we are prepared.
Our advice to the public remains the same. Members of the public who have visited affected regions and have symptoms are advised to self-isolate at home and contact their GP in the first instance. Advice will then be given on next steps, including testing if required.

In a statement this evening, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “Given the evolving situation this first case of COVID-19 disease was not unexpected. The National Public Health Emergency Team has been planning for this scenario since January.”

The general public should continue to adhere to the public health protocols issued by the Department of Health.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer in the Dept of Health, said: “The HSE is well-prepared and is working to inform any contacts the patient had in order to prevent transmission.”

“COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person’s body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.

“Close contact involves either face to face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person. The risk of transmission through casual contact is low.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged people in the North to remain calm and continue to keep hospital appointments in line with medical advice.

He said: “First of all, I want to thank the health service professionals at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast who are currently working very hard to assess and treat the patient who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus.”

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Sean Murray

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