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Harris apologises for ‘awful boo boo’ on past coronavirus numbers

The health minister wrongly claimed there had been 18 previous Covid viruses discovered prior to the emergence of the most recent disease.

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Minister for health Simon Harris during a press conference at the Department of Health in Dublin to speak about mental health supports during the Covid-19 outbreak (PA)

Minister for health Simon Harris during a press conference at the Department of Health in Dublin to speak about mental health supports during the Covid-19 outbreak (PA)

Minister for health Simon Harris during a press conference at the Department of Health in Dublin to speak about mental health supports during the Covid-19 outbreak (PA)

The health minister has apologised for an “awful boo boo” after wrongly claiming there have been 18 other coronaviruses prior to Covid-19.

Simon Harris said “cabin fever” or “sleep deprivation” might have been to blame for his mistake in an interview on morning radio.

He made the claim on RTE 2FM’s breakfast show when making a point on how difficult it will be to find a vaccine for Covid-19.

Ireland’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan later clarified that there had only been six previous coronaviruses, and the “19” was related to the year the most recent version was discovered.

I can be an awful auld idiot at timesSimon Harris

Mr Harris posted a video on Twitter on Wednesday night acknowledging his mistake.

“I was trying to make the point that there have been lots of viruses in the world so far for which there hasn’t been a vaccine found and having been asked about a vaccine I was trying to make that point that we can’t just wait for a vaccine, we have to see how we can suppress the virus and live alongside the virus,” he said.

“And don’t ask me how or why – I can only presume it’s a degree of cabin fever after being in his department on a very, very regular basis for the very last while, maybe a bit of sleep of deprivation – I stupidly talked about there being 18 other coronaviruses which of course there isn’t.

“I can be an awful auld idiot at times so my apologies for any confusion that causes.”

Mr Harris said the point he was trying to make was that while lots of work was going on around the world to find a vaccine, Ireland had to accept the reality that the virus would be around for “quite a period of time”.

He said the objective was to get it to a safe enough level to be able to live alongside the disease and get back to “some degree of normality”.

“So my apologies for making a stupid mistake this morning,” he added.

“Don’t tell anybody but I am human and it happens from time to time.”

PA