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Coronavirus: Three new cases in Republic as NI schools undergo 'enhanced clean'


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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris (Aine McMahon/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris (Aine McMahon/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris (Aine McMahon/PA)

Three new cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, it has been revealed.

It brings to 24 the total number of cases there, with 12 in Northern Ireland.

They included females from the west and south of the country in close contact with cases and a female healthcare worker from the south in close contact with a patient.

It comes as the government cancelled all St Patrick’s Day parades, including in Dublin, across the country.

Health Minister Robin Swann issued an urgent statement on Monday evening 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".

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."

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."

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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.

At a press briefing in Dublin on Monday on the spread of Covid-19, Mr Varadkar said: “What we have seen from other countries and what we have seen from what is available at the moment, is that we could we could easily have 50 or 60% of our population contracting Covid-19.

“For the vast majority of the population this will be a mild illness and may even by asymptomatic. However, there will be a significant part of the population who will require critical care.”

He added: “A percentage that we don’t honestly know yet – it could be one per cent or three per cent – mortality.

“We just don’t know that with any degree of certainty. It is not the kind of thing we have seen in a very long time.”

Mr Varadkar said he thinks the Irish health system “will cope as best as possible”, but would struggle if the virus were to spread rapidly.

He added: “This won’t be an ordinary situation If you consider the numbers of people who could become very ill.. even if the health service was twice the size it is now we will struggle.”

He said 430 million euro will be allocated to provide additional staff and capacity in the health service to deal with the virus.

He said: “Money that would have been set aside for a hard Brexit is being put aside for Covid-19.”

Mr Varadkar said “conditionality will be waived” when it comes to people seeking sick pay if they have Covid-19.

“The whole objective here is that people who have symptoms and are told to stay at home will come forward and not fear doing so for economic reasons,” he added.

He said the Irish government has a plan in place if Covid-19 becomes a pandemic.

He said: “We have a pandemic plan but it needs to be updated and we will most likely have an updated plan by Friday.

“Bear in mind, we are already a few weeks behind the UK in terms of the spread of the virus.”

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said while Ireland remains in a containment phase, it will eventually move to a delay phase and then on to the mitigation phase.

He said: “Containment is about identifying and containing all cases no matter how mild. The delay phase will focus on minimising the spread of the virus.

“Ultimately, in mitigation phase, we prioritise the cases that are most unwell.”

Belfast Telegraph