Health worker among five new coronavirus cases in Ireland
A healthcare worker is among five new cases of coronavirus in Ireland.
There are now 18 confirmed cases in the state.
There was a further confirmed case in Northern Ireland on Friday, bringing the total north of the border to four.
The healthcare worker is a woman in the south of Ireland and her case is associated with a close contact with a confirmed case, the National Public Health Emergency Team announced.
The other four new cases are a male in the east of Ireland and a woman in the south whose cases are associated with travel from northern Italy; a female in the west of Ireland whose case is associated with close contact with a confirmed case; and a male in the south of the country whose case is associated with travel.
The latest cases were announced as hospitals in various parts of the country took precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus.
The Mater Hospital in Dublin announced restrictions on visits, as did six hospitals in counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.
At Cork University Hospital, 60 staff have been asked to self-isolate following the identification of Ireland’s first case of community transmission of the virus at the site.
The hospital has also introduced visitor restriction measures and curtailed some elective procedures and outpatient services.
Visitor restrictions have also been introduced at nursing homes nationwide.
Meanwhile, a section of Trinity College Dublin’s city centre campus has been closed as a precautionary measure as a case of Covid-19 is connected with the campus.
In another development, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald announced she was cancelling plans to visit Washington DC next week for St Patrick’s events.
Mrs McDonald’s children attend a school that has been closed due to a coronavirus case.
At a National Public Health Emergency Team briefing on Friday evening, Liam Woods, the director of acute operations at Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), said healthcare workers were at the front line of this virus outbreak.
“The Department of Health and the HSE are equally dedicated to protecting and supporting this vital group of people,” he said.
Dr Ronan Glynn, Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, said: “The past number of weeks have been challenging for everyone in our healthcare system. This challenge is going to escalate as the number of cases here rise.
“We must prioritise the protection of our frontline healthcare staff and as part of this the National Public Health Emergency Team has established a sub-group to identify and implement appropriate measures to protect them.”
Earlier on Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government was still not recommending the cancellation of mass public gatherings, such as the main St Patrick’s Day parades and festivals.
Mr Varadkar was speaking after meeting with health officials on Friday.
“We are not recommending at this stage that any major events be cancelled, but this of course will be kept under review,” he said.
Organisers of some events have already moved to cancel, such as the St Patrick’s Day parade in the Co Cork town of Youghal.
Mr Varadkar said there were no plans to ban flights between other countries and the Republic of Ireland.
“As things stand, the best advice is that there isn’t a case for widespread flight bans to Italy or other parts of Europe,” he said.
He said the Irish government will not be introducing measures such as checking people’s temperatures at airports.
“While that may be the case in some parts of the world and people are engaging in those actions, the best scientific advice we have at the moment is that those kinds of actions are not effective, and there’s no point in taking actions that are not effective.”
He said retired health professionals may be brought back if the Covid-19 outbreak accelerates rapidly in the Republic of Ireland.
“What we may have to do is ask people who are retired healthcare professionals to come back into service if there are significant pressures on our health service in the weeks ahead,” said the Taoiseach.
He added: “Over the next couple of days, and also by Monday, we should have a clear solution on what we’re going to do in providing income supports to workers who are asked to self-isolate.”