Ireland remains in a containment phase.
That’s the update from health officials this morning, after seven new cases of coronavirus, one in Cork, were diagnosed on Thursday, bringing the national total to 13.
The Cork COVID-19 patient is a male, reportedly in his 40s, who had not travelled to Italy in the month before he was taken ill. Doctors believe this is the first case of community transmission in the Republic of Ireland.
As a result, all outpatient appointments and elective procedures have been cancelled and CUH is currently on lockdown, with signs at the hospital’s doorways reading ‘Infection Outbreak: No Visitors Allowed’.
More than 60 CUH staff of the 3,000 employed by the hospital have been asked to self-isolate.
Meanwhile, the Mater Private hospital is closed to visitors while hospital chiefs assess the situation.
Announcing the move in a statement, the hospital said: “Mater Private Cork is not a designated receiving hospital for suspected or confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, the designated hospitals in Cork as per HSE and HPSC are CUH and Mercy hospitals.
“As a precaution, on the advice of experts and in the interest of patient safety, Mater Private Cork is restricting visitor access until further notice. All patient appointments will continue as normal.”
Here’s the latest advice from authorities:
1. The HSE advice
“There are confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ireland. The risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland is still low to moderate. This may change. However, most people may continue to go to work, school and other public places, as usual.”
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
in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999
Today, at various media briefings, I outlined that we have now entered a very serious phase in our battle to contain #COVID19. Everyone must play their part to help us. I appeal to the public to urgently act on our advice so far, at https://t.co/MNrpx7yI9o. @HSELive
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) March 5, 2020
2. The CUH advice:
According to a CUH statement, “Management at the South/South West Hospital Group have requested that where appropriate the public contact their GP/Southdoc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to presenting to Emergency Departments in the city if their needs are not urgent.”
Anyone with any queries about visiting times or visiting a particular ward should ring the hospital on 021 4922000.
3. Extra precautions
Pharmacies across Cork have been inundated with requests for hand sanitiser but frequent vigorous handwashing remains the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.
Management at Phelan’s Pharmacy in Carrigaline has advised patients who require regular medication to think ahead and collect prescriptions early, therefore reducing the need to risk infection later on, should the virus spread via community transmission.
“We do not know how we will be impacted and feel it would be prudent to encourage you to talk to our pharmacist over the coming week about the possibility of getting your prescription early this month. This facility is not available for some prescriptions (e.g. opiate painkillers, sleeping tablets, psychiatric drugs) but may be possible for prescriptions for diabetes, asthma, blood pressure etc.”
If you have a fever, the advice is to call the pharmacy from your car and a staff member will come out.
4. Should I stockpile food and medicine?
Experts have said that panic-buying is an overreaction, but having a few essentials in the cupboard to tide you over (tea, coffee, pasta, rice and canned goods, for instance) in a case of self-isolation is a good idea.
Buying basic over-the-counter pain relief and cold medicine now could also mean you don’t need to leave the house if you develop symptoms.
There has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Italy. As a result, the Italian government has isolated the towns of Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano (which are in Lombardy) and Vo’ (which is in Veneto).
“In a wider area comprising Lombardy and Veneto, as well as Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, certain public services, tourist attractions, bars, restaurants and/or cultural events etc. may be curtailed depending on decisions taken by local authorities.” says the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“For the moment, we are advising against non-essential travel to the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.”
If you are planning on travelling to Italy, the Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available by contacting the Health Service Executive and that you also obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs.
“You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.”
They have also advised the public to be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.
6. Returning travellers: Anyone who has been to Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna or Piedmont in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms should self-isolate and call their GP.
7. Planned events
The National Public Health Emergency Team is currently evaluating the risks associated with mass gatherings in Ireland. There have been increased calls for the cancellation of St Patrick’s Day celebrations, which are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people together for parades on March 17th.
This year’s parade in Youghal has already been cancelled, with organisers saying: “Young and old alike throng the streets to watch the parade. Their health and the health of our community is our primary concern.
“We would like to apologise to the public, clubs, groups, societies and businesses affected by this decision but feel that we must act in the best interests of public health and safety.”