Covid-19: 60 CUH staff ordered to self-isolate as HSE urges public to stop calling 999 for information

The HSE’s national director of acute operations, Liam Woods, has issued an appeal to the public not to call emergency numbers 999 or 112 when seeking information about the coronavirus.

Covid-19: 60 CUH staff ordered to self-isolate as HSE urges public to stop calling 999 for information

Update: More than 60 staff at Cork University Hospital have been asked to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

A crisis management team has been launched at the hospital where a middle-aged male patient is being treated in isolation for Covid-19.

The patient presented at CUH a number of days ago, according to Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health.

The HSE’s national director of acute operations, Liam Woods, has issued an appeal to the public not to call emergency numbers 999 or 112 when seeking information about the coronavirus.

He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the emergency numbers should be for emergencies only and that anyone seeking information should phone 1850 24 1850 or to use the live chat facility on www.hse.ie.

Mr Woods said that it is now likely that more cases will be diagnosed, but he said that the majority of people will be able to cope with the virus in their own home environment.

Contact tracing in the first case of community transmission in Cork has been completed, he said, and people who were in contact with the patient have gone into voluntary self isolation.

He said that while all 13 cases in Ireland are at present being treated in hospital as per European Centre for Disease Control guidelines, “should numbers grow that position will be reversed. The majority can manage the condition at home.”

Mr Woods said that all hospitals have plans in place having carried out risk assessments and that the health service will create capacity when and where necessary. Contingency planning will make sure that there is adequate space, he added.

Health care workers who may have been in infectious areas in other countries are being asked to self isolate and measures are in place to ensure that hospitals have the necessary equipment “to do their job,” he said.

Meanwhile, Irish-born microbiologist and head of life sciences at Nottingham University, James McInerney, told Morning Ireland that he would cancel public events such as St Patrick’s Day parades.

He said he has stopped shaking hands and that people need to be mindful to stop such contact.

Vivienne Clarke

Covid-19: Race to track CUH case as infections rise to 13

A major operation is underway to trace those who came in contact with the first case of Covid-19 confirmed in Cork, the first community-acquired case of the virus in the country.

Trinity College Dublin has also confirmed one of the seven new cases of coronavirus revealed last night in the Republic was diagnosed at its campus.

At Cork University Hospital (CUH) a crisis management team has been launched where a middle-aged male patient is being treated in isolation.

The man has not travelled to an affected area, and so far the public health team has not been able to identify any contact he may have had with a confirmed case, the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed last night.

The patient presented at CUH a number of days ago, according to Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health.

“During the period of [his] admission, the diagnosis was made after a number of days,” said Dr Holohan. “The question of potential contact with healthcare workers and others has arisen.”

Some days lapsed after his admission before the diagnosis was made, meaning that healthcare workers may potentially be contacts, he said, adding that a risk assessment is underway.

Other patients within the hospital who may have been in contact with the man are also included in this exercise, which is being carried out by clinical staff and public health officials.

Medical staff at CUH who are known to have come into contact with the man have been sent home and instructed to be self-isolated, the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed.

Last night, seven new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed; aside from the confirmed case in Cork, four men in the east of the country are being treated in hospital. Their conditions relate to travel from northern Italy.

Trinity College Dublin said it has been informed of a positive case of coronavirus on its campus.

In a letter to staff and students, the university says the HSE will trace anyone who's been in contact with the affected person.

Some areas of the campus have been closed as a precaution.

Two further cases involve females in the west of the country and are associated with close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.

This brings the total number of cases so far confirmed in the Republic to 13, with 16 cases confirmed so far on the island of Ireland.

Of the previously confirmed existing cases, two are in the east and there is a cluster of four in the west. Each of these are associated with travel from the same affected area in northern Italy.

However, there are no plans to introduce a travel ban, the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed last night.

Thursday saw major developments in the global spread of Covid-19:

  • The UK reported its first death from the virus, with 116 cases confirmed so far. The patient, a woman in her 70s, had an underlying medical condition;
  • The World Health Organisation said the current outbreak is not yet at pandemic level, but there are “very concerning signs”;
  • The Central Bank in Dublin confirmed that one of its employees was being tested for the virus;
  • The University of Limerick told students it is likely to restrict numbers on campus in future. Separately, staff at University College Cork were advised the university is rolling out a contingency plan.

Strict visitor restrictions have now been introduced at Cork University Hospital (CUH), where the patient is being treated in isolation in the Intensive Care Unit. Critical patients are continuing to be seen but outpatient appointments were cancelled today.

The Cork patient is understood to have presented at CUH a number of days ago with complications arising from an existing underlying health condition.

When his condition did not improve, new tests were ordered, including a test for Covid-19. It returned positive. An extensive contact tracing exercise is now underway to identify close contacts, including the man’s family members, medical staff, patients, and medical students.

In a statement last night, CUH said it had introduced strict visitor rules as a precautionary measure.

“We are advised by our experts that in the interest of patient safety we are currently restricting access to the hospital’s facilities to patients only,” a spokesperson said.

“This is in the interest of patient care and in order to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital.”

Meanwhile, fear dominated financial markets again yesterday and US stocks fell sharply on worries about the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.

It is the latest shudder in Wall Street’s wildest week in over eight years.

Major US indexes lost roughly 3.5% and Treasury yields touched more record lows.

The slide nearly wiped out the surge that stocks had ridden just a day earlier, which came in part on hopes that moves by authorities around the world could cushion the economic fallout.

These vicious swings are likely only to continue, as long as the number of new infections continues to accelerate, many analysts and professional investors say.

The global financial uncertainty took its toll on Europe’s largest regional airline, Flybe, which yesterday finally collapsed into administration, threatening thousands of jobs and the future viability of a number of airports across the UK.

Flybe’s demise, announced early yesterday and blamed in part on a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak, sparked fierce condemnation from unions and opposition politicians, who criticised both the airline’s owners and the Government for failing to act to save it.

British transport secretary Grant Shapps said everyone was “gutted” about the news but said: “We really tried to do everything we could back at the turn of the year.

“Unfortunately, with the situation that has developed with (coronavirus), an already weak company, I’m afraid, just hasn’t been able to survive,” he said

The carrier narrowly avoided going bust in January but has continued to lose money since then.

It operated one flight out of Cork Airport, to Cardiff.

    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

Eoin English, Sean O'Riordan, Jess Casey

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