Harris signs order to designate coronavirus as a notifiable disease

Doctors will be obliged to routinely notify the HSE when a case of Covid-19 is diagnosed

The HSE said on Thursday that there was no confirmed case of Covid 19 in Ireland at present. It said 78 people had been tested for the virus up until last Monday. Photograph: iStock

The HSE said on Thursday that there was no confirmed case of Covid 19 in Ireland at present. It said 78 people had been tested for the virus up until last Monday. Photograph: iStock

 

The coronavirus, Covid-19, has been officially designated a notifiable disease in Ireland.

On foot of an order signed on Thursday by the Minister for Health Simon Harris doctors will be obliged to routinely notify the HSE when a case of Covid-19 is diagnosed.

The Department of Health is also understood to be looking at bringing the condition under legislation that would allow for a person with the virus to be detained and isolated.

The HSE said on Thursday that there was no confirmed case of Covid 19 in Ireland at present. Some 78 people had been tested for the virus up to last Monday.

Speaking after signing the order making Covid 19 a notifiable disease, Mr Harris said: “Ireland is well positioned to detect and respond to a case of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) that might arise here. This measure, to include Covid-19 on the list of notifiable diseases, is common practice when dealing with a newly emerging infectious disease. This was also done for the SARS epidemic in 2002.”

The Department of Health chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Ireland’s public health response to Covid-19 remains unchanged. We are in a containment phase. Anyone returning from China in the last 14 days, and experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19 (coronavirus), is instructed to self- isolate and contact the health service via phone or email.”

Evolving situation

At a HSE briefing on Thursday Dr Sarah Doyle said Covid-19 was a new virus and that the situation was evolving with a lot still unknown.

However she said: “You are extremely unlikely to catch novel coronavirus 19 from someone in Ireland at present”.

“If there is a case in Ireland in the future, health professionals will contact anyone who has been in close contact with the infected person to give information and advice.”

She said that Ireland and Europe were currently in the containment phase of control in relation to the current coronavirus outbreak.

“A strategy of containment is likely to continue following the importation of the first cases of coronavirus 19 into Ireland, if they occur. This would be appropriate if the number of introductions remains limited and there is no sustained community transmission of the virus or transmission only within sporadic contained clusters.

Dr Doyle said the issue of isolating or detaining of people with particular infectious conditions was covered by the 1947 Health Act. She said these provisions applied to a narrow number of infections such as TB. She said she understood the new virus would be added to that list but that the provisions of the legislation would only be used as a last resort.