| 0.2°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Republic grappling with 10 more cases

Close

Dr Tony Holohan. (Niall Carson/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan. (Niall Carson/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan. (Niall Carson/PA)

The damaging effects of the coronavirus outbreak in the Republic have hit almost every aspect of daily life.

With 10 more cases confirmed yesterday, the health service there is grappling with the cancellation of hundreds of surgeries and outpatient appointments.

A number of other events were scrapped, from festivals to charity fundraisers, and Trinity College Dublin shut its lecture halls with a move to online learning.

The Irish Department of Education moved to issue a statement scotching rumours it was about to order the closure of all schools.

The confirmed number of people struck by the infection shot up to 34, in the biggest rise seen in a single day since the virus hit Ireland. They include two healthcare workers - one in the south and another in the east.

However, none of the newly diagnosed cases was infected through community transmission. There has been a surge of 1,387 tests in the past week.

The expert group overseeing the coronavirus also drew up new rules which will allow healthcare workers who may have been exposed to the virus but have no symptoms to return to work. The health service is struggling with huge numbers of staff who have had to self-isolate.

These healthy workers will be risk-assessed before being assigned work and tested twice daily. However, appointment cancellations were already imposed in Limerick and Cork.

Nursing Homes Ireland has warned of the dangers of the Health Service Executive (HSE) poaching its staff as it lifts restrictions on recruitment.

It said there is a risk nursing homes will be denuded of staff and the HSE should appoint overseas candidates first.

Meanwhile, the expert group has given the go-ahead for regional laboratories to begin testing suspect cases. Results should be available in 24 to 48 hours amid complaints about delays.

The group said strict visiting restrictions imposed by hospitals and nursing homes were not needed at this stage.

Irish chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said 98% of the 1,784 people tested so far "have tested negative". He warned that while the Republic "remains in containment phase, there is no room for complacency".

The European disease watchdog has warned of the spread of many more cases of community transmission, where people are infected without a known source.

When that happens locally, more stringent precautions will be felt by the population.

It is possible to explain the source of infection in all but three of the 34 cases in the Republic so far.

Asked about rumours that schools are about to be closed, Dr Holohan said it could not be ruled out at some stag, but will not be implemented at this point. A range of possible restrictive measures may be enforced in the future. But he said they will deployed at an appropriate time and that is "not necessarily now".

This followed an earlier statement from Ireland's Department of Education in response to reports circulating widely on social media that schools would not re-open after St Patrick's Day.

"Any decision to close schools will be made on public health advice. There is no such advice at this point," a spokesperson said.

Trinity College in Dublin, which had a case of the infection last week, announced it would close lecture halls and deliver lessons online to its thousands of students.

Belfast Telegraph