New case of coronavirus identified in east of Ireland

By Cate McCurry, PA

A new case of coronavirus has been identified in Ireland, bringing the total number of people diagnosed to 19.

The Department of Health confirmed on Saturday that a male, in the east of the country, had travelled from northern Italy.

The HSE said it is working rapidly to identify any contacts the patient may have had.

There were also a further three confirmed cases in Northern Ireland on Saturday, bringing the total north of the border to seven.

The latest three cases are all adults who had recently travelled from Italy and are linked to a previously confirmed positive case.

Health officials said that further positive tests have been expected and the advice to the public remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) was told by the HSE that there will be “no barriers” to the recruitment of health staff in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The INMO said that all processes required to appoint nurses on panels and awaiting appointment will now be expedited.

On Friday, it was confirmed that a healthcare worker was among five new cases of coronavirus in Ireland.

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 said.

Other recent new cases include 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 cases were announced as hospitals in various parts of the country took precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus.

The National Public Health Emergency Team met on Saturday to consider guidance from the Expert Advisory Group on managing healthcare workers who are close contacts of a confirmed case.

The advice came after 60 staff at Cork University Hospital were asked to self-isolate following the identification of Ireland’s first case of community transmission of the virus at the site.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, chair of the Expert Advisory Group, said: “There is a risk to patients of acquiring Covid-19 from an exposed health care worker.

“However, if a health facility cannot be staffed safely to provide critical services, then the following guidance to mitigate risk will assist:

“Health care workers who have had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and have developed symptoms should be excluded from work.

“Health care workers who have had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and have not developed symptoms, and are deemed to be essential workers, may work, provided they observe strict adherence to infection prevention and control precautions, and undergo twice daily active monitoring by occupational health, for 14 days after contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.”

Speaking after today’s National Public Health Emergency Team meeting, Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer in the Department of Health, said: “Covid-19, as with other infectious diseases, creates risk to patient care in two ways – the risk of transmission from an infected health care worker and the risk of serious impact on patient care by loss of significant numbers of essential staff.

“The National Public Health Emergency Team has decided to adopt the guidance of the Expert Advisory Group, to be implemented in Cork University Hospital and Limerick Hospital immediately.”

HSE senior management are currently meeting with staff in the affected hospitals.

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer in the HSE, said: “Healthcare workers are at the frontline of this virus outbreak.

“The Department of Health and the HSE are equally dedicated to protecting and supporting this vital group of people, along with ensuring patient care.”