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Secondary school in Republic of Ireland to close for 14 days after all pupils and staff confirmed as 'close contacts' of coronavirus case

  • All pupils and staff being treated as 'close contacts' of confirmed case
  • School to close for incubation period of 14 days
  • Male with coronavirus 'in east'; travelled from Italy
  • Chief medic: Risk of more cases 'moderate to high'

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Image of the coronavirus. (Photo by HANDOUT/National Institutes of Health/AFP via Getty Images)

Image of the coronavirus. (Photo by HANDOUT/National Institutes of Health/AFP via Getty Images)

National Institutes of Health/AF

Image of the coronavirus. (Photo by HANDOUT/National Institutes of Health/AFP via Getty Images)

All pupils and staff of a secondary school in the east of the Republic of Ireland have been reported as 'close contacts' of the confirmed case of coronavirus in the country.

The principal, staff and parents of pupils of the school have been notified.

Following risk assessment, all pupils and teachers are being treated as close contacts of the confirmed case, the National Public Health Emergency Team have confirmed.

The school will close for the duration of the incubation period, which is 14 days.

All pupils and teachers are being asked to restrict their movements until the end of the incubation period and will receive guidance on the meaning of ‘restricted movements’.

Public health doctors will actively follow-up with all students and teachers on a daily basis over the coming 14 days, a spokesperson said.

Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer with the Department of Health, said: “Contact tracing has assessed that close contacts of this patient includes pupils and teachers of a secondary school. Public health doctors are in direct contact with pupils, their parents and the staff involved.

"Patient confidentiality in this case, and in all cases, should be respected. The Department of Health will provide updated information as necessary.”

The Department of Education said: “The Department of Education is available to assist the school in any way necessary. The Departments of Education and Health are in regular contact.

"The closing of this school was a decision made on public health grounds after risk assessment deemed it appropriate. All other schools will remain open. The Departments will continue to communicate with all schools on this issue.”

Yesterday it emerged that a patient, a male in the eastern part of the country, is currently receiving appropriate medical care after testing positive for Covid-19, the HSE revealed.

The man had been in Northern Italy and did not contract the virus from contact with another confirmed case here, including the case confirmed in Northern Ireland on Thursday. He came forward himself with symptoms. Tests confirmed he had the virus only hours before the announcement was made and authorities then began the process of tracing those he may have come into contact with.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health, said the likelihood of more cases in Ireland is now "moderate to high" but added that, for members of the public who had not been out of the country, the likelihood of contract the virus was still extremely low.

Dr Holohan said: "This is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this eventuality for many weeks now. Public health protocols have been in place since January and are operating effectively.

"The health service is well used to managing infectious diseases and has robust response measures in place."

Dr John Cuddihy, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said: "The HSE is now working rapidly to identify any contacts the patient may have had, to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread.

"It is important to note that the risk of transmission through casual contact is low."

It is the second case of coronavirus on the island of Ireland, after the first case in Northern Ireland was confirmed earlier this week.

The patient had arrived at Dublin Airport from northern Italy before travelling to Belfast by train.

The Irish Cabinet is expected to meet to discuss measures to contain the virus, such as curtailing public events, while the cancellation of St Patrick's Day events around the country has not been ruled out.

Government departments are being asked to provide facilities for people to self-isolate in the event of a coronavirus outbreak here, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Newly-commissioned nursing homes that are not yet in use or facilities at colleges and universities across the State could be used as spaces for people to self-isolate as a precaution in the event they cannot do so at home.

"It would be if you ended up with a lot of people who are symptomatic but do not have a suitable home setting in which to self-isolate," a Government source said.

This could include patients in nursing homes, people in Direct Provision who have to share a room with others or those caught up in the housing crisis who are also forced to share a room with others.

Departments are being asked to provide details on facilities they would be able to make available to be used as temporary isolation units. Such facilities would not be used as field hospitals for people who are diagnosed with the coronavirus. "It's not for sick people. If you are sick and need to be isolated we are prepared for that," the source said.

Government preparations for dealing with an outbreak of the coronavirus will be stepped up this week with an inter-departmental group of secretaries general to meet to assess various contingency plans.

Nursing homes will have to consider restricting visitor access to protect residents from the coronavirus, according to industry representatives, with older people and people with underlying illnesses most vulnerable to the virus.

The chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, Tadhg Daly, said he was also concerned about a shortage of equipment, such as face masks, to protect staff from the coronavirus.

"In the private sector, the majority have single en-suite rooms, so the level of preparedness is good," he said.

The English language school sector is expected to lose millions because of travel restrictions designed to contain the virus. Many student trips due to take place this month and in April have already been cancelled. Marketing English in Ireland estimates that more than 10,000 student trips in the coming weeks will be cancelled, at a cost of more than €8m.

The National Bus and Rail Union is calling for Perspex protective shields for drivers on the country's national bus routes. Unlike Dublin Bus vehicles, Bus Eireann services in regional areas do not have automated cash dispensers or protective shields.

The union was told last week that the Northern Irish passenger who travelled from northern Italy to Dublin Airport and then on to Belfast did not use public bus transport.

The woman is now self-isolating in Northern Ireland and the train on which she travelled to Belfast has been sanitised. It is believed that several people who had contact with the woman on her journey home from northern Italy have also been forced to isolate themselves. These include the passengers who sat two rows in front, two rows behind and across from the woman on the Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.

The cabin crew have also been placed in self-isolation for 14 days as a "precautionary measure".

Irish Independent