Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.42 4 Mar 2020


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Health Minister Simon Harris has said a public health notice will be issued if they can't contact someone directly over coronavirus concerns.

Officials are currently tracing the close contacts of the second person to test positive for COVID-19 here - a woman in the east of the country who had recently returned from northern Italy.

Speaking on Lunchtime Live, Minister Harris said that process involves public health doctors sitting down with the patient and tracing her journey to determine who she has been in contact with.

He explained: "They make contact directly with those people.

"We had an incident last week where people were saying about a different case 'how do we know everyone was contacted?'

"Let's be really clear here: if you need to be contacted and we cannot contact you, we will issue a public health notice."

He noted that was done during a measles outbreak in the past, in a case when the health service needed to contact everyone who was on a bus with a patient.

Minister Harris insisted: "If you don't hear from the health service, you do not need to be worried."

'What we won't do is cause unnecessary alarm'

The Health Minister explained that every major decision - such as the closure of a school or cancellation of a sports event - will be taken on public health grounds.

He added: "We won't shirk from that, but what we won't do is cause unnecessary alarm or indeed feed what is understandable human curiosity about stories: we can only provide what is necessary on public health grounds, and we have to protect patients' confidentiality."

Elsewhere, Minister Harris also addressed the situation yesterday that saw his department incorrectly inform media outlets that a letter sent to members of a youth band about the first confirmed case here was a hoax.

It was later clarified that the letter was real.

Minister Harris noted there is a lot of information about the virus currently going around, including many false rumours.

He explained: "Yesterday there was a letter going around, and good, decent, hardworking people were asked was this letter true - and momentarily they didn't think it was.

"What do we do to make sure this doesn't happen again? What we were planning to do anyway: a daily press conference every single day where we put the country's top doctor, the Chief Medical Officer, in front of a microphone."

He said the press conference will update public on what has happened during the course of the day, the latest public health advice, and whether there are any new cases.

Ciara Kelly was previously 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:

Harris on coronavirus: 'If you don't hear from the health service, you don't need to be worried'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

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