The HSE has set up a dedicated team to trace everyone who came into contact with the coronavirus patient in Cork University Hospital (CUH) amid the first signs of panic buying in the city.
Long queues were reported in Tesco Wilton and Dunnes Stores in Bishopstown Court, near CUH, with demand for dry food and canned goods running at over twice the normal rate.
Public health experts said while they accept that the public is concerned, they appealed for calm and urged people to follow the hygiene advice.
Dr Augustine Pereira, the director of public health in the HSE South, said the majority of people who acquire this virus will experience mild symptoms.
It is understood that a dedicated team, led by public health doctors and specialists, has now been established to help with the complex contact tracing exercise arising out of the CUH case.
Dr Pereira said the family and close community contacts of the patient have been informed and public health advice given to them.
“We want to assure people that work is well advanced on contact tracing," he said.
This means that we are in the process of identifying contacts of the patient and giving appropriate public health advice.
"As a consequence, staff and other patients who attended the hospital during a certain period are being contacted.
"We aim to contact trace everyone we can today. If people do not hear from us today or over the weekend, they do not need to be concerned.”
His comments came as up to 60 healthcare workers at CUH continue to self-isolate following confirmation of the coronavirus in a male patient several days after his admission to the hospital.
The man, who has a serious underlying medical condition, had no history of travel to affected areas in Northern Italy and had no known contact with another confirmed case.
A crisis management team is managing the evolving situation.
CUH has introduced strict visitor restrictions and cancelled outpatient procedures as part of its robust emergency response.
Its emergency department remains open for emergency cases.
CUH, a major teaching hospital, has been declared off-limits to all medical students and staff of UCC.
The Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork, and the UL hospital group have also introduced strict visitor restrictions as a precautionary measure.
At MUH, visiting is restricted to patients who are critically ill or who have specific care needs, only one visitor per patient is allowable at one time, except in exceptional cases, and children are not allowed to visit, except in exceptional cases.
"This decision will be reviewed on a daily basis and regular updates will be provided," a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for UCC said the HSE has not advised the university to take any additional steps for its campus at this time.
"University management is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to take the advice of the national authorities,” he said.
- 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
UL Hospitals Group has announced the cancellation of all elective surgeries and outpatient appointments across all six of its sites in the mid-west next Monday and Tuesday.
The affected hospitals are University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.