Simon Harris says Europe must act together to 'stop the spread of misinformation' about coronavirus

Simon Harris says Europe must act together to 'stop the spread of misinformation' about coronavirus
Minister Harris was speaking at an emergency conference of European health ministers. File picture.

- Additional reporting by Eoin English

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus must be stopped.

Mr Harris was speaking in Brussels at an emergency meeting with other European health ministers.

There, they discussed the effect of the coronavirus on health services and listened to reports from the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Harris said: "Public communications is an important focus in our response. Europe must act together to stop the spread of misinformation about this virus."

"Those who spread such lies are increasing the stigma attached to this virus. They are endangering lives and they are stopping us from doing our jobs. Our public health doctors should lead our response to this matter."

Minister Harris said that "Ireland remains in the containment phase," and said that "while countries are in different situations, it is vital we work together."

We are better protected if we work together on this. We need rational, coherent decision- making based on science and public health.

"It is clear this virus is going to have an impact for a prolonged period of time. It is essential we plan ahead, protect our healthcare workers and do our best to provide accurate, evidence based and timely information to our people."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said mass public gatherings such as St Patrick’s Day parades will not be cancelled amid the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking following a stakeholder meeting with health officials on Friday, he said: “We are not recommending at this stage that any major events be cancelled but this of course will be kept under review.”

Last night the number of coronavirus cases in Ireland increased dramatically including a community transmission for the first time.

The case involves Cork University Hospital and the HSE has set up a dedicated team to trace everyone who came into contact with the patient.

Up to 60 healthcare workers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) have been asked to self-isolate, visitor restrictions have been introduced at two major hospitals and all nursing homes nationwide have banned visitors.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

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