| 14.4°C Belfast

Ireland's St Patrick's Day events still on despite new coronavirus case


Caution: Leo Varadkar

Caution: Leo Varadkar

Caution: Leo Varadkar

A second case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the Irish Republic.

It involves a female from the east of the country who travelled to the Republic from northern Italy, officials said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said last night: "Today we are confirming that Ireland has diagnosed one new case of Covid-19. The case arises in a female in the east of the country and is associated with travel from northern Italy."

It is unrelated to the first case in the Republic, which involves a Dublin school pupil who is currently being treated in hospital.

Some 397 people had been tested for the Covid-19 in Ireland - but just one had tested positive until yesterday.

Officials last night applied a travel ban to the four regions in Italy where the virus has been spreading rapidly in recent days.

Questions have emerged over the handling of the virus in the south, after it emerged the pupil was at band practice in a community hall shortly before the positive test was announced.

Anyone suspected of having the virus must stay in self-isolation until their test result gives the all-clear.

The issue came to light yesterday after a letter from the Irish health service to the parents of teenagers in a local band, of which the pupil was a member, was leaked.

Adding to the confusion, the Department of Health described the letter as a hoax yesterday morning. Officials were later forced to backtrack and admit it was true.

The communications blunder between the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health has raised concerns about weaknesses in the Republic's national action plan to combat the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said his government is not currently advising the cancellation of St Patrick's Day celebrations.

However, Leo Varadkar acknowledged the situation could change in the two weeks leading up to the March 17 festivities.

Ireland's Six Nations rugby match against Italy scheduled for Saturday has been postponed because of the outbreak.

Mr Varadkar said it was due to specific circumstances around the game - namely, that it would have seen thousands of people from affected areas of Italy congregate in a Dublin stadium.

He did not issue the same cancellation advice to the organisers of the St Patrick's events.

Elsewhere, the Queen opted to wear long white gloves as she carried out an investiture at Buckingham Palace. The palace declined to confirm if the 93-year-old monarch was taking precautions due to the outbreak.

In Italy, Pope Francis, who has a cold, tested negative for the coronavirus.

Yesterday, NHS England declared coronavirus a 'level four' incident - the highest category of emergency.

Meanwhile, a new UK Government battle plan says up to one in five workers in the UK could be off sick during a coronavirus peak and the police may switch to only dealing with serious crime.

The 27-page document sets out the UK-wide response to Covid-19, with possible measures including the cancellation of non-urgent operations and retired NHS staff being called back to duty. In a worst-case scenario, up to 80% of the population could become infected, with people in hospital with pneumonia and a relatively high death rate among the elderly and frail.

The document sets out possible strategies for delaying the spread of the virus, including school closures, "reducing the number of large-scale gatherings" and encouraging greater home working.

The military could also provide support to emergency services if needed, it says.

Belfast Telegraph