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Coronavirus: Aer Lingus confirms passenger travelled on airline from Italy to Dublin

  • Patient travelled from northern Italy to Northern Ireland via Dublin
  • Health Minister says process of identifying contacts with patient 'at advanced stage'
  • Members of public who travelled between Dublin and Belfast on public transport 'need not be concerned'
  • Aer Lingus cabin crew who worked on the flight are in self isolation for 14 days

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Dr Adrian Mairs (PHA), Dr Philip Veal (PHA), Dr Michael McBride and Mariam McCarthy (HSC) provide an update on Coronavirus on February 27th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Dr Adrian Mairs (PHA), Dr Philip Veal (PHA), Dr Michael McBride and Mariam McCarthy (HSC) provide an update on Coronavirus on February 27th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Dr Adrian Mairs (PHA), Dr Philip Veal (PHA), Dr Michael McBride and Mariam McCarthy (HSC) provide an update on Coronavirus on February 27th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Aer Lingus has confirmed that the person from Northern Ireland infected with the coronvirus travelled on the airline to Dublin airport from Italy.

The news comes as passengers sitting close to the woman infected with Northern Ireland's first coronavirus case have been contacted by health officials.

Aer Lingus cabin crew who worked on the flight are in self isolation for 14 days.

RTE reported the aircraft involved was not used for 16 hours after it returned to Dublin and that the flight crew, maintenance and cleaning staff that were in contact with the the aircraft don't need to take any action.

Aer Lingus says the self isolation is a precautionary measure but that it is a stressful time for those involved and their families.

It said it wouldn't be releasing the flight details to protect the identities of those involved and said messages of support could be sent internally.

On Thursday evening authorities were put on high alert after the Public Health Agency (PHA) confirmed the first case had been detected in Northern Ireland.

The affected woman had flown from northern Italy, where there have been a number of deaths due to the illness, to Dublin Airport before travelling to Northern Ireland.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) officials in the Republic worked overnight on Thursday to identify those who were on board the flight.

It has been reported the woman travelled to Dublin's Connolly Street station by bus before travelling to Northern Ireland by train.

Have you been contacted by health officials about the coronavirus in Northern Ireland? Contact us at digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said 93 tests have so far been completed here, with one presumed to be positive.

He said he was reassured that the planning of the past four to five weeks, maybe even longer, at a UK level and dealing with counterparts in the Republic of Ireland had been effective.

He added: "In response, our health service and our health systems can actually step up.

"I am reassured that the professionals we have in the health system are well-placed to cope with the eventuality that may come."

He said he had always maintained from the start that it was a matter of when, not if, there was a positive case in Northern Ireland.

"Unfortunately that proved to be right last night but in how our system reacted I was pretty assured that we have the best people to deal with this," he said.

He said tracing those who may have had contact with the patient was at an advanced stage and would soon be completed.

"I have been reassured in the Public Health Agency (PHA) today that anyone who was at high-risk and may have been in contact with the individual, last night has been contacted."

Members of the public who have travelled between Dublin and Belfast using public transport need not be concerned Dr Jillian Johnston

Dr Jillian Johnston, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: “All stages of the individual’s journey were identified and those who came into closest contact have been traced and contacted with public health advice and guidance.

“I would emphasise that members of the public who have travelled between Dublin and Belfast using public transport need not be concerned.

“Contact tracing is an effective and efficient method carried out by the PHA to help prevent the further spread of infections such as COVID-19."

Dr Johnston said that once a patient tests positive for an infectious disease and interview is carried out with the patient to help identify those who they may have come into closest contact with.

“Once contact has been made, the appropriate advice can be given to these individuals based on whether they are at high risk, low risk or there is no risk," she said.

“Regular contact is kept with those in the higher risk categories and if they experience any symptoms, appropriate medical intervention will take place."

If there is any links to another country the PHA will work with counterparts to enable investigations into potential contacts and actions to be undertaken.

In a statement Translink said the PHA has completed the contact tracing process and that Translink is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus on its fleet.

"We already regularly undertake deep cleaning of our fleet and have cleaning regimes in place which include keeping surfaces clean and sanitising hand touch areas," the spokesman added.

"This has included additional cleaning of all Enterprise train carriages by both ourselves and Irish Rail as a further preventative measure. We have also issued guidance to all staff on the latest advice to maintain good hand hygiene practices.

“PHA has advised that there is a relatively low level of risk to anyone who travels on public transport and while staff and crew in contact with the general public are not considered to be at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 as a result of their work, we continue to recommend that all staff and passengers adhere to the Public Health guidelines to help prevent the spread of germs”.

Worldwide, 83,704 people have been infected with the virus. It has claimed 2,859 lives.

On Friday, Dr Sarah Doyle, a consultant in public medicine at the HSE in the Republic, said those in close or casual contact with the woman had been contacted.

"The people in the closest contact, within two rows, are the people we identify as close contacts and they have been contacted by phone and given appropriate advice about self isolation at home and what to do if they develop symptoms," Dr Doyle told RTE's Morning Ireland programme.

Dr Doyle also said those who may have come into contact with the woman on her journey from Dublin to Belfast have been contacted.

Last night Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, said the woman had followed all the correct protocols.

“The patient who had tested positive had contacted their GP and self-isolated in line with public health guidelines," he said.

“The advice to the public remains the same: members of the public who have visited infected regions and are concerned that they may have symptoms that are consistent with coronavirus are advised to self-isolate at home, and contact their GP in the first instance.

The infected woman, who is receiving specialist treatment, is understood to have travelled with a child, who is not believed to be in hospital, but who is awaiting test results.

Several transport operators run services from Dublin Airport to Belfast.

Aircoach said there is currently no change to travel restrictions with transport companies due to coronavirus.

"All our services are operating as normal and our terms and conditions apply," a spokesperson said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and will follow all public health instructions that are issued."

A Bus Eireann spokesperson said they are "continuing to monitor developments" around the virus.

"We are working internally to prepare contingencies in the event of cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, on our services or in our workplaces. Supplies of hand sanitising gel and wipes are being provided for all employees," they added.

"We will continue to engage with and be guided by the relevant health and other government agencies to inform decisions while the Covid-19 issue continues."


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