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Visitors to nursing homes not to blame for spread of virus, says Holohan

Ireland’s chief medical officer has said individuals are not responsible for the spread of the infection.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Niall Carson/PA)

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Niall Carson/PA)

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Niall Carson/PA)

People who visited nursing homes should not feel they are to blame for spreading coronavirus, Ireland’s chief medical officer has said.

There have been 857 deaths associated with residential care facilities, including 740 nursing home residents, according to the latest figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Ireland’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 1,429 after a further 27 deaths were announced by the NPHET.

There have been 156 new confirmed cases of the virus, taking the total in Ireland since the outbreak began to 22,541.

Dr Tony Holohan stressed that visitors did not bring the virus into the settings and they should not feel responsible for the outbreaks that have taken place in nursing homes.

Speaking at a Department of Health briefing on Friday, he said: “It gives me disquiet because individuals who visited in that time period know who they are… they are people who visited their loved ones in those nursing homes and there is a sense of blame attached to them and they feel some responsibility for something they did not do.

“Even if it was the case that visitors brought the infection into nursing homes – this is a highly transmissible virus. It is more transmissible than flu and we see flu getting into nursing homes and causing the same sort of pattern every winter.

“I want to advise the public, individuals are not responsible for the spread of this infection – it is important that some people who visited nursing homes should not feel some sense of implicit blame if they visited their loved ones in a time period where we don’t believe the infection got into nursing homes.”

Some 120 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed among children under the age of four, it was confirmed on Friday.

Dr Holohan said there have been 120 cases of Covid-19 among children aged between 0-4 while there have been 108 cases among children aged five to nine years of age.

In children aged between 10-14, there have been 145 cases.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Joe McHugh confirmed this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations will be suspended, with students given calculated grades instead.

Students who do not wish to accept the calculated grades will be able to sit the exams at a later date when the pandemic eases.

However, Mr McHugh said this may happen in the autumn or “whenever it is safe” for the exams to be held.

Dr Holohan said the cancellation provides students with clarity, and said the Department of Education followed public health advice.

“It has provided clarity for students. The department assessed whether they could comply with the guidance we set out and what challenges it would represent for them.

“They have done what we recommend other sectors do – internalise the advice that we have in terms of what they need to run exams.”

When asked if he told the Department of Education to cancel the exams, he said the cancellation was in line with his team’s advice.

“We have no expertise in the running of exams,” he said.

PA