Health minister calls for public to be 'alert but not alarmed'
Health Minister Robin Swann has issued an urgent statement giving an update on the spread of the coronavirus in Northern Ireland revealing one is a young person which has forced two schools to close for an "enhanced clean".
A GAA club has also closed for a deep clean.
Mr Swann said there have been 222 tests in Northern Ireland, 12 of which have been positive.
Five positive cases were announced on Sunday night, two of which were travel-related following trips to Northern Italy, while the remaining three could be traced to previous cases that involved recent travel to the region.
"One of the three is a young person. The individual attends a school which is co-located with a primary school," Mr Swann said.
"PHA (Public Health Agency) is content that there is no public health risk to anyone attending either of the schools, however it understands as a precautionary measure both schools will be closing today to undertake an enhanced clean," he said.
The two schools affected are Newtownhamilton High School and primary school, which are located on the same site in Co Armagh.
The principal of Newtownhamilton High School, Neil Megaw, said the schools have been closed for the rest of the week as a precautionary measure.
He said: "The PHA has advised us that the risk to pupils and staff of the school is very low."
Co Antrim GAA club Naomh Gall said it has also been advised by the PHA to undertake a deep clean of its clubhouse after an adult member tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from holiday.
"They [PHA] are aware of the timeline of when he last attended the Clubhouse and all activities within the Club since then," said a spokesperson on Facebook.
"As a precautionary measure we have made the decision to cancel all training and games this week."
Meanwhile, the IFA (Irish Football Association) has set up a response group in collaboration with the NIFL in a joint approach towards the outbreak, where they plan to coordinate messaging to clubs, players and supporters.
They said they have made contact with the first case reported in the Mid-Ulster League and have made contact with the relevant parties.
Our health service is used to managing infections and we are well prepared to deal with this.Robin Swann
Speaking on Monday, Mr Swann said the health service is prepared to deal with the virus.
"The First Minister and deputy First Minister and I have been in discussion with our counterparts across the UK at a Cobra ministerial meeting this morning to consider the scientific evidence which will guide us in our steps."
He said there are no known implications for Northern Ireland following the rise in cases in the Republic of Ireland, where the number of cases stands at 21.
It includes two cases of community transmission, which means the person infected has not been to any of the affected outbreak areas such as northern Italy or China.
"Whilst the situation is serious, I would like to reassure Members that detailed plans are in place in the event of an outbreak spreading across the UK and the Republic of Ireland with sustained community transmission," said Mr Swann.
"Our health service is used to managing infections and we are well prepared to deal with this."
He called on the community to be "alert but not alarmed" and stop panic-buying food or other products in supermarkets.
Mr Swann said the current evidence indicates the vast majority of cases appear to be mild - but that everyone has to work hard to protect vulnerable citizens.
"Everyone can help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses by ensuring we all take sensible precautions such as washing our hands – thoroughly and often – and to heed the standard advice recommended for similar illnesses such as cold and flu – by ensuring that when we sneeze we catch it, bin it and kill it."
Mr Swann said as Health Minister, his priority is to continue to make sure all effective measures continue to be put in place.
"We can expect significant ongoing increases in the numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland," he said, saying normal business may not be possible as the outbreak gets worse and takes its toll on the health service.
"We all need to rise to this challenge," he said.