Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.28 14 Mar 2020


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The Taoiseach says Ireland's response to the coronavirus has been complicated by having a border on the island.

Members of the Government and Northern Executive are meeting today to discuss the approach to combating the spread of coronavirus on the island of Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Health Minister Simon Harris members will attend the North South Council meeting in Armagh.

They're joined by Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann.

The two jurisdictions' chief medical officers are also in attendance.

Speaking on his way into the meeting, Mr Varadkar said: "This virus knows no border, knows no nationality - it's a problem for all of us.

"Our response to it is complicated by the fact we have two jurisdictions on this island - but that's all the more reason why we have to work together."

As of yesterday evening, there were 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic and 29 in the North - a total of 119 across the entire island.

Currently, different approaches are being taken by the governments in both jurisdictions - schools have closed temporarily in the Republic, but they remain open in the North.

Ms O'Neill yesterday called for all schools and colleges in the North to be temporarily closed in response to the outbreak.

Latest advice

Last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs here updated its travel advice for Europe due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Irish citizens are now being advised to "exercise a high degree of caution" when travelling to other EU countries.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the decision had been made based on the "rapidly changing conditions & restrictions across a number of EU countries".

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris said the advice now is for members of the public to stay at home if they have a fever and/or cough - regardless of whether they had travelled to affected regions or been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh this morning, Anne O’Connor - Chief Operations Officer with the HSE - said: "The work that's underway at the minute is all about trying to contain this infection - so it's very important people look after themselves."

When it comes to people who are experiencing symptoms, she said the advice is: "Stay at home, don't mix with people, and make a call.

"What is important is that people follow the simple messages."

Anyone with symptoms is being asked to phone their GP or the HSE helpline on 1850 24 1850.

As of this morning, a ban on anyone arriving into the US from most countries in mainland Europe has come into effect.

Donald Trump has defended the travel ban on the 26 Schengen countries - and has warned that the restrictions could be extended.

Ireland the UK are not impacted by the ban announced earlier this week.

Mr Trump yesterday declared a national emergency, freeing up billions of dollars for health officials attempting to tackle the outbreak in the US.

Main image: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

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