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Coronavirus: Dublin school closed for two weeks as pupil tests positive after trip to Italy

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Dr John Cuddihy, HSE director of public health (left), and Dr Tony Holohan

Dr John Cuddihy, HSE director of public health (left), and Dr Tony Holohan

PA

Dr John Cuddihy, HSE director of public health (left), and Dr Tony Holohan

Hundreds of pupils in a Dublin secondary school have been told to stay home for two weeks after a student tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Parents were thrown into panic yesterday after receiving a letter from the Irish health service saying the school has been shut, with pupils and staff put under active surveillance by public health doctors until March 16.

The student, who is the first person in the Republic to be diagnosed with the virus sweeping the globe, was being cared for in the isolation unit of the Mater Hospital in Dublin last night.

He caught the virus during a mid-term visit to one of the areas of north Italy which has seen the biggest outbreak in Europe.

Staff and students in the 400-pupil school have been told to restrict their movements and isolate themselves for the next 14 days.

Parents received letters from the Health Service Executive yesterday informing them that "a person" in the school had been identified as having the virus and it would be closed for two weeks "as a precaution".

The letter provided information on how to reduce the risk of transmission but did not say that it was a pupil who had the virus.

They will receive daily texts from public health doctors and told to report any potential symptoms of the virus.

The decision by the Irish Department of Health not to reveal the school was slammed on social media last night.

Some public representatives named it on Twitter.

But chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the school would not be named for patient confidentiality and the need to reassure other people who may have the infection they can come forward without a breach of privacy.

Without saying a pupil was involved the letter to parents said "a person" in the school had been identified as having the virus and it would be closed for two weeks as a precautionary measure.

It is the second case on the island of Ireland in the space of a few days and follows news that a woman in Northern Ireland has the virus following a trip to northern Italy, returning to Dublin airport and travelling to Belfast by train. Dr John Cuddihy, head of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said yesterday that not all the contacts of the person who tested positive from the Dublin school had yet been traced and this was ongoing.

The case has again heightened the risk of more people being diagnosed with the virus in the Republic with particular fears about visitors who were recently in the 11 towns in north Italy.

The parents are to receive a briefing from HSE officials at the school this morning.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohue said he "completely understands" the level of local public concern and worry about the school but he had the best guidance from public health doctors.

Asked what restricted movement meant for the pupils, Mr Cuddihy said: "They need to limit social interactions, not go to school, work or sporting events."

Belfast Telegraph