St Patrick’s Day events can go ahead despite Covid-19 fears, health chief says

Ireland's Chief Medical Officer has said that fear and anxiety in relation to the coronavirus is understandable - and said that it is important that the public stay informed.

St Patrick’s Day events can go ahead despite Covid-19 fears, health chief says

The chief medical officer has said that the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin on March 17 does not need to be cancelled, despite concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

There are now five Covid-19 cases on the island or Ireland – three in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic.

Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, insisted “as things stand” the parade can go ahead in a fortnight.

“I’m going to be as clear as I can be about this because we have been asked it on a number of occasions.

“As things stand, and on the basis of our assessments on the risks to this country, we see no implications for the St Patrick’s Day parade.”

As things stand, we don’t envisage that situation changing. On the other hand; this is a fast-moving national and international situation.

Earlier: Dr Tony Holohan: Response to coronavirus must be 'proportionate'

Ireland's Chief Medical Officer has said that fear and anxiety in relation to the coronavirus is understandable - and said that it is important that the public stay informed.

After two people in the North tested positive for the disease, Dr Tony Holohan said that the response to the disease should be "proportionate" and "necessary", adding that travel into Ireland from impacted countries has not been restricted.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on his way to brief the media on the confirmed case of Covid-19. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on his way to brief the media on the confirmed case of Covid-19. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

“We now understand there are three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, five in total on the island of Ireland,” Dr Holohan said.

“Given that Covid-19 is a new disease it is understandable that its emergence may give rise to anxiety and fear among the general public. These factors can also give rise to harmful stereotypes.

"This virus knows no borders, or race. Restricting travel into Ireland does not form a component of our current response. We must continue to focus on ensuring that everyone is informed, and knows what to do in the event they develop symptoms

"It is essential that any decisions regarding responses to Covid-19 are proportionate, necessary and based on specific public health advice. No other response is appropriate.

"The general public should continue to follow HSE.ie and Gov.ie/health for accurate and informative information regarding Ireland’s response to Covid-19.”

Earlier: Two people test positive for coronavirus in North

Two further positive Covid-19 cases have been detected in Northern Ireland.

One adult recently travelled from northern Italy.

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing procedures set-up beside the Emergency Department of Antrim Area Hospital. Picture: Michael Cooper / PA Wire
An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing procedures set-up beside the Emergency Department of Antrim Area Hospital. Picture: Michael Cooper / PA Wire

The other had recent contact with a person elsewhere in the UK who has subsequently tested positive, Stormont health officials said.

The results are being sent to England for verification.

A UK Department of Health statement said: “Testing of patients in Northern Ireland has resulted in two further presumptive positive results for coronavirus (Covid-19), bringing the total to three since testing began.

“In line with established protocols, these Northern Ireland test outcomes have been sent to Public Health England laboratories for verification.

“The two cases are not connected. One individual recently travelled from Northern Italy. The other had recent contact with a person elsewhere in the UK who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

“Both patients are adults and are receiving appropriate care. Public Health Agency personnel are working rapidly to identify contacts they may have had, with the aim of preventing further spread.”

Last night there was a second confirmed case in the Republic as efforts are ongoing to trace the contacts of the woman in the east of the country.

Health Minister Simon Harris says people who aren't contacted shouldn't worry.

"Let's be really clear here, if you need to be contacted and the health service cannot contact you, we will issue a public health notice.

"We will contact you, if you don't hear from the health service, you do not need to be worried," he said.

In England, there have been confirmed cases in Trafford and Oldham, both in the Greater Manchester area.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Italy from the coronavirus has risen again to 107.

More than 2,700 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 276 patients have recovered.

Schools and universities there are to close until the middle of March in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

- Additional reporting Joel Slattery

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