Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.16 2 Mar 2020


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The risk of coronavirus in the European Union has been raised to "moderate to high".

The EU commission said its current assessment risk has been raised to the second-highest level during a press conference today.

A "Corona response team" has also been launched as part of a European-wide effort to tackle the virus.

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Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "We have a situation that is very complex and it requires on one side very swift action and on the other side a strong coordination on all the levels and different sectors not only on the European level, but on the national level, and then a very comprehensive and coherent approach towards the topic from all 27 Member States and the EU.

"This is why today we are launching the corona response team.

"This response team brings together all the different strands of action that have been in place for many weeks, but also brings in place the new workstreams."

It comes as the illness spread to most of western Europe, with Portugal reporting its first two cases.

Four new cases of coronavirus were also confirmed in the UK today, taking the total number to 40.

Elsewhere in Iran, an aide to the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died after contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Iran has the highest coronavirus death toll in the world after China, with 1,501 confirmed cases and 66 deaths.

The number of people around the world who have died from coronavirus reached 3,048 last night, and the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases reached 89,197 globally in 60 countries.

Dublin school closed

Meanwhile, a Dublin secondary school has been closed as a precaution to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Students and teachers have been told to restrict their movements for two weeks after a male student was confirmed as the first case of COVID-19 in the Republic.

Doctors have spent the last day and a half tracing his movements after Ireland's first case of the coronavirus was confirmed on Saturday.

He tested positive for the virus after travelling here from northern Italy and it is understood he is now being treated in hospital.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (centre) meets HSE staff who are activating the public awareness campaign for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the baggage hall of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport.

Yesterday, the Department of Health said that staff and pupils at the school are being treated as close contacts by public health teams.

The HSE has written to all parents of students at the school asking them to "isolate them from others without delay" if they develop any symptoms.

Staff and students have been asked to restrict their movements until the end of the incubation period - 14 days.

They will also receive a text message every day to check on their condition.

The Department of Health said it would not name the school to protect the individual, the family and their community.

In a statement, the Department of Education said: "The closing of this school was a decision made on public health grounds after risk assessment deemed it appropriate.

"All other schools will remain open. The Departments will continue to communicate with all schools on this issue.”

Outbreak

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department, Dr Ronan Glynn, said the family members of the students at the school can continue to go about their daily business as normal.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: "I know there's been lots of questions as to whether the parents themselves can go to work and go about their normal activities - they can, and they don't need to stop doing what they normally do.

"We've asked their children to maintain what we've termed 'restricted movement' for the next 14 days."

The Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has said the number of suspected coronavirus cases here is expected to rise in the days ahead.

For now, the advice to the public is to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.

Newstalk's Ciara Kelly was joined by Jack Lambert, a specialist in infectious diseases at The Mater Hospital and UCD, and he answered some common questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus.

You can listen back below:

EU raises risk of coronavirus to 'moderate to high'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Main image: EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen speaking at a press conference this morning. Photo: EU Commission

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