Chief medical officer defends State's refusal to name Dublin school closed due to coronavirus

Chief medical officer defends State's refusal to name Dublin school closed due to coronavirus
Dr John Cuddihy, HSE director of public health, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, and Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn during a press conference at Department of Health yesterday. Picture: PA

The State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan has defended the HSE’s handling of the country’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus which has forced the closure of a Dublin secondary school on infection control grounds.

More than 400 students of Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin, Co Dublin are today beginning two weeks off after public health officials ordered it to shut to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr Holohan again declined to identify the school or the individual patient, pointing out that confidentiality must be maintained so that the public would feel confident about coming forward if they thought they might have contracted the virus.

However, a letter from the HSE to all affected parents of children attending the school emerged in the immediate aftermath of that briefing.

A series of measures had been outlined to parents of pupils at the school urging the students to limit their social interaction and not to attend social gatherings.

The HSE will hold a public meeting on Monday evening for parents who will also be texted daily to check on symptoms so there can be immediate action and follow up if necessary.

Dr Holohan said he understood the impact this could have on families in terms of parents having to take off work if necessary to care for their child, it was a decision that had not been taken lightly.

We felt this was a proportionate measure, in the event that someone else becomes ill, they can be diagnosed quickly.

However, he said that other steps that have been taken by sport clubs cancelling training (near the school in question) were not necessary. The HSE will find ways to work with all organisations to help provide a response that is proportionate, he added.

Dr Holohan warned that social media had highlighted concerns that had no basis in fact. “Anyone with access to social media, has access to www.hse.ie for accurate information.”

Some of the information being shared on social media was “completely false” and inaccurate and the public should rely only on “trusted sources”.

Dr Holohan said this was a fast changing situation and it was difficult to predict what might be of concern in 10 days time, such as large gatherings like the St Patrick’s Day parade.

The chief medical officer was also adamant that the country has sufficient isolation rooms, but pointed out that most people who had been infected elsewhere had experienced only a mild infection.

When asked about the possibility of people being infected a second time, Dr Holohan said this was “an open scientific question” as there was much still unknown about the virus.

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