Second case of coronavirus is confirmed in east of Ireland

Case is a female who was in northern Italy; her infection is unrelated to Dublin student

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health said ‘as things stand’ he saw no reason why the St Patrick’s Day festival could not go ahead later this month. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health said ‘as things stand’ he saw no reason why the St Patrick’s Day festival could not go ahead later this month. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A second case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the east of Ireland.

The case is a female whose infection is unrelated to the first case which was confirmed last Sunday involving a school student from Dublin.

The latest case is associated with travel from Italy and the patient is receiving appropriate care, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said.

The positive test result emerged on Tuesday evening, after the NPHET held a five-hour meeting to review measures, and efforts to trace contacts of the woman have just begun.

Members of the team briefed media on the latest case on Tuesday evening.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan described the case as “not unexpected” but said Ireland remained in a containment phase and had yet to experience local transmission, as was the case in other EU states.

All non-essential travel to four regions in Italy - Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont - is now being advised against.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ previous advice against non-essential travel in Italy was previously limited to 11 specific towns in the region.

Guidance on mass gatherings is to be publishing in the coming days, following cross-Government review, Dr Holohan said.

But he added that “as things stand”, he saw no reason why the St Patrick’s Day Festival could not go ahead later this month.

The testing of suspected cases is also to be moved from hospitals to the community, most likely people’s homes.

Dr Holohan said this would take further pressure off hospitals and that the tests would be carried out by paramedics.

Issues relating to vulnerable people, healthcare workers, medicines supply and the preparedness of hospitals are to be examined by four separate sub-committees, the NPHET also announced.

The measure being taken to counter the spread of the virus do have wider societal implications, he acknowledged, and these would be addressed by the Cabinet committee that has been established.

A total of 397 people have been tested for the virus since the current outbreak started in January, public health officials said on Tuesday, compared to 90 this time last week. The female who travelled to northern Italy and the Dublin school student are the only two tests to come back positive.

The increase in tests is mainly due to a widening of the number of areas of the world subject to coronavirus-related travel advice.

Previously, the Department of Foreign Affairs’s travel advice was confined to travellers from China, but it now encompasses other areas, including Japan, Hong Kong, Iran, and the four regions in Italy where restrictions have been imposed.

Anyone coming back from these areas and who feels unwell is being advised to contact their GP and may require testing. Italy, the European country worst affected by coronavirus, has exported cases to many other countries, including Ireland.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The situation is still evolving... but there is a moderate to high risk of more cases.”

He said: “What we’re pursuing in Ireland at the moment is a policy of containment, making sure that any cases that are identified are contact-traced and we contain any potential outbreak.

“But we may come to stage in a few weeks time if that’s not successful where we move to mitigation phase, and that would be treating the ill, rather than trying to contain the virus but we’re not at that stage yet.”

Regarding the impact on St Patrick’s Day parades and other events, the Taoiseach said “we’re not advising anyone to cancel any gatherings at this stage.

“But bear in mind that the St Patrick’s Day festival is two weeks away and a lot can happen between now and then.”