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

Officials on both sides of the border have contacted all of the people who had close contact with the woman.

Updated Feb 28th 2020, 9:47 PM

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH officials have given an update on Ireland’s preparedness for Covid-19 this morning, in the wake of the first confirmed case of the virus on the island of Ireland yesterday evening.

Health authorities in Northern Ireland confirmed the case shortly after 7pm last night. Here, officials have said all of the people who were in close contact with the patient have now been contacted. 

Here’s the latest. 

What’s happened? 

The Public Health Agency in the North confirmed last evening that a person had been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. 

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

It’s understood the woman travelled from northern Italy to Dublin via air, and travelled home to Northern Ireland.

Media outlets in the North are reporting the woman was travelling with a child. She contacted a GP and took steps to self-isolate once she suspected symptoms. 

Further identifying details aren’t being made public to protect the patient’s privacy but it’s understood she travelled via Dublin and on to the North in the last 48 hours. 

She is receiving specialist care. RTÉ is reporting this morning that she has been allowed to travel home and is receiving treatment there. 

It is not known if the patient used public transport after arriving in Dublin – health officials have declined to confirm how the woman travelled to Northern Ireland. They have also declined to confirm the date of the flight – only that it was in the last 14 days. 

Now what? 

The risk to the population in the North has not changed as a result of the presumptive positive test result, health officials at the PHA said last night. 

The Chief Medical Officer with the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan said this morning that the development does not change the department’s procedures in responding to the virus. 

coronavirus Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan. Source: PA

The woman who was infected had followed the public advice issued by health authorities in recent days and contacted health authorities. .

The passenger manifests and crew manifests of the plane she was on were checked, and those who were in close contact with the infected passenger – within two rows – have now been contacted by the HSE in line with the recommended procedures.

Dr Holohan told reporters this morning that the contact tracing process has been completed – all individuals who need to be contacted about it have now been contacted. 

“The individuals who need to know are close contacts – those contacts have happened. It’s important for those individuals that they hear in the right way from health authorities and that they follow the information that’s been given by the health authorities and that’s what’s happened in this particular case on both sides of the island.”

He declined to confirm whether any of those people are showing symptoms but said anyone identified as part of this process who needs to be tested will be tested. 

All of those who were in close contact with the woman have been told to self-isolate at home and they will be monitored on a daily basis to ensure they don’t develop symptoms over the 14 day period. 

Health officials have also confirmed today that the ‘casual’ contacts – the remaining passengers who were on the flight with the woman – have also been contacted and given advice. 

The HSE also updated its advice on the virus last night in the wake of developments in the North. 

“There is a confirmed case of coronavirus in Northern Ireland. The patient travelled through the Republic of Ireland and is in isolation in Northern Ireland and receiving treatment,” it says. 

Public health authorities are working to inform any contacts the patient had in order to prevent transmission. Those at most risk of severe infection and those with most exposure will be contacted first.
This afternoon, the North’s Health Public Agency (PHA) announced that it has already contacted those who “came into closest contact” with the woman who tested positive.

The agency’s Dr Jillian Johnston said all stages of the woman’s journey were identified, and that those it had notified had been given public health advice and guidance.

“I would emphasise that members of the public who have travelled between Dublin and Belfast using public transport need not be concerned,” she said.

It has not been confirmed if the woman in question travelled from Dublin to Belfast via train but Irish Rail told TheJournal.ie today that both Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland’s Translink ”undertook a sanitising clean of the Enterprise fleet as a precautionary measure overnight”. 

What’s the general advice for people returning from affected areas? 

This is the current list of places where there is a spread of Covid-19

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

If you are feeling well 

If you have been to any of those areas in the last 14 days and are feeling well this is the advice from the HSE: 

If you are feeling well, carry on with your normal routine.

Follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus and other infections such as flu.

Avoid spending time with people who are ill with a cough, high temperature, or breathing problems.

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus

  • avoid contact with people by self-isolating
  • phone your GP or emergency department
  • tell them your symptoms and the details of your situation

Contact with a case 

If you think you have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus this is the advice from the HSE: 

Phone HSELive on 1850 24 1850 if you think you have been:

  • in contact with someone confirmed as having coronavirus
  • to a healthcare facility in another country where coronavirus patients are being treated

You will be put in contact with your local Department of Public Health staff who will give you information and advice.

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, avoid contact with people by self-isolating and phone your GP or emergency department.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

If you are feeling unwell 

If you have been to one of the places listed above and you are not feeling well, the HSE recommends you should check if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

These are fever (high temperature), cough or difficulty breathing.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, 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.

You’ll find more information about self-isolating here

Dr Holohan explained how the virus is spread:

“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.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

We’ll have updates on developments throughout the day on the site, including in our liveblog on Ireland’s Covid-19 response.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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Daragh Brophy

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