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No need to cancel mass gatherings due to Covid-19 at this stage – Taoiseach

It came as the number of cases of the virus in the Republic of Ireland rose to 13.


Leo Varadkar and Dr Tony Holohan addressed the media (Brian Lawless/PA)

Leo Varadkar and Dr Tony Holohan addressed the media (Brian Lawless/PA)

Leo Varadkar and Dr Tony Holohan addressed the media (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish Government is not “at this stage” recommending the cancellation of mass public gatherings amid the spread of Covid-19.

Taoiseach Leo Vardakar was speaking after meeting with health officials on Friday.

He said: “We are not recommending at this stage that any major events be cancelled, but this of course will be kept under review.”

Mr Varadkar said there will be no flight bans between other countries and the Republic of Ireland.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

“As things stand, the best advice is that there isn’t a case for widespread flight bans to Italy or other parts of Europe.”

He said the Irish Government will not be introducing measures such as checking people’s temperatures at airports.

“While that may be the case in some parts of the world and people are engaging in those actions, the best scientific advice we have at the moment is that those kinds of actions are not effective, and there’s no point in taking actions that are not effective.”

He said retired health professionals may be brought back if the Covid-19 outbreak accelerates rapidly in the Republic of Ireland.

“What we may have to do is ask people who are retired healthcare professionals to come back into service if there are significant pressures on our health service in the weeks ahead.”

He added: “Over the next couple of days, and also by Monday, we should have a clear solution on what we’re going to do in providing income supports to workers who are asked to self-isolate.”

It came after more than 60 staff at Cork University Hospital were asked to self-isolate following the identification of a case of community transmission of the virus at the site.

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland more than doubled on Thursday, with the first case of community transmission also confirmed.

Seven new cases were confirmed by the Department of Health on Thursday night, bringing the total number in the Republic of Ireland to 13. Three cases have also been detected in Northern Ireland.

Four of the latest cases are linked to travel to northern Italy, involving four males from the east of Ireland.

Two female patients in the west of the country are associated with close contact with a confirmed case.

The Health Service Executive’s national director of acute operations Liam Woods told RTE radio Cork University Hospital has introduced visitor restriction measures and curtailed some elective procedures and outpatient services.

Mr Woods said the Republic of Ireland remains in a containment stage and people will be brought to hospital if they are confirmed to have the disease.

“The contact tracing in Cork has been completed and our public health department has engaged in that so that work is done.”

“The procedure is clear, so any person who is a contact is asked to voluntarily self-isolated and that has happened.”

Mr Woods said the country remains in the containment phase but warned it is a “rapidly evolving situation”.

He said management is reviewing services at all hospitals in the country to ensure there is adequate space for essential services while also dealing with the outbreak.

“Our contingency planning is about ensuring we have adequate space to provide essential services that are currently provided but to also deal with the outbreak of a viral infection.”

“Our contingency measures are in place and we will be able to respond for quite some time.”

Meanwhile, a section of Trinity College Dublin’s city centre campus will be closed as a precautionary measure as a case of Covid-19 is connected with the campus.

An email sent to students and staff on Thursday night read: “We were informed of a positive case of Covid-19 (coronavirus) within Trinity College Dublin late on Thursday night (March 5). We are now working closely with the authorities to ensure that this individual receives the best care possible.”

“The HSE will trace anyone who has been in contact with the infected individual to ensure they receive any necessary medical attention.”

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has asked that the public do not visit the hospital.

In a statement the hospital said: “The only visitors who will be allowed on campus are those who are visiting patients in critical care, vulnerable young adults, psychiatric patients or those whose loved ones are receiving end of life care.

“No children are permitted to visit the hospital under any circumstances.

“The visitor restrictions are being put in place for public and patient health reasons to minimise the possible spread of infections.

“All hospital appointments will proceed unless otherwise informed.”