After Northern Ireland has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, authorities are urging the public to remain calm.
Northern Ireland reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus on February 27. Health officials believe the patient traveled from Northern Italy through Dublin.
Coronavirus update: in Northern Ireland, one test result for coronavirus (COVID-19) is presumptive positive. pic.twitter.com/LBkv7GG4PV— Public Health Agency (@publichealthni) February 27, 2020
The Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland said in a statement on February 27: "In Northern Ireland, one test result for coronavirus (COVID-19) is presumptive positive.
"The Public Health Agency is continuing working with partners across the UK including Public Health England, as well as the Department of Health and health trusts in Northern Ireland, and the health service in the Republic of Ireland, on the ongoing global novel coronavirus response."
A further statement from Northern Ireland's Department of Health said: "In line with established protocols, this Northern Ireland test outcome has been sent to Public Health England laboratories for verification.
"The patient is receiving specialist care and Public Health Agency personnel are working rapidly to identify any contacts the patient had, with the aim of preventing further spread."
The PHA held a news briefing regarding the confirmed coronavirus case:
Chief Medical Officer Dr.Michael McBride says a person with Coronavirus in Northern Ireland travelled here from the Republic of Ireland. People who may have been in close contact are being traced, but people are being told not to be alarmed amid efforts to contain Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/r4PmTvZhuc— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) February 27, 2020
Chief Medical Officer Dr. McBride said: “We have been planning for the first positive case in Northern Ireland and have made clear that it was a question of when not if.
“We have robust infection control measures in place which enable us to respond immediately. Our health service is used to managing infections and would assure the public that we are prepared.
“Our advice to the public remains the same. Members of the public who have visited affected regions and have symptoms are advised to self-isolate at home and contact their GP in the first instance. Advice will then be given on next steps, including testing if required.
“More general advice about coronavirus is available at the Public Health Agency website.
Dr. McBride added: “To help reduce any potential spread of coronavirus, we are urging people to follow the steps that we recommend for similar illnesses such as cold and flu – catch, bin it, kill it. Always carry tissues to catch your cough or sneeze, dispose of the tissue as soon as possible after using it, and clean your hands as soon as you can as germs can spread to every surface you touch.”
Dr. Adrian Mairs, Acting Director of Public Health at the Public Health Agency (PHA), added: “Northern Ireland has well-prepared and rigorously-tested plans for dealing with infectious diseases, and these have been activated. This will help ensure that the patient receives appropriate care, and the likelihood of spread is minimised. I would like to reassure the public that the risk to the wider population remains low.”
The newly confirmed coronavirus case in Northern Ireland brings the total confirmed cases in the United Kingdom to 16. There have yet to be any confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland. As of February 27, there are more than 82,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, and more than 2,800 deaths.
"Not a time for panic"
Michelle O'Neill, vice president for Sinn Féin, said in a tweet:
Have spoken to the health minister & to the head of the civil service as the first presumptive positive test for Coronavirus is confirmed. All procedures have kicked in & the advice to the public remains the same. If you are unsure please read the advice issued below ?? https://t.co/IhoruYNvTp— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) February 27, 2020
Colum Eastwood, the head of the SDLP in Northern Ireland, offered simliar remarks:
Thanks to the staff at Belfast's Royal hospital working hard to treat the patient diagnosed with Coronavirus.
There are robust infection control measures in place. People should continue to attend hospital where required & follow medical advice https://t.co/Ss2fc0o7HV— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) February 27, 2020
Eastwood said in a statement: “First of all, I want to thank the health service professionals at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast who are currently working very hard to assess and treat the patient who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus.
“What we know at this point is that the patient travelled from northern Italy to Dublin Airport and then onward to Belfast. I understand that efforts are being made to contact those who travelled with the individual and ensure that they are not also displaying symptoms.
“This is not a time for panic. Robust infection control measures are in place to deal with any cases of novel Coronavirus. I have full faith in the medical staff at the Royal hospital. Those who need to attend the hospital should continue to keep appointments and follow the advice of staff there.”
The confirmed case of coronavirus in Northern Ireland comes just a day after the Irish government and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) agreed to call off the upcoming Ireland - Italy Six Nations rugby match that was scheduled for Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on March 7. In recent days, Italy has become the worst-hit country in Europe with confirmed coronavirus cases and several areas in the country are on lockdown.
Ireland’s Minister for Health Simon Harris also said on February 26 that there were no plans in place as of yet to begin coronavirus screenings at Ireland’s ports and airports. Ireland’s tourism officials and health officials said they are monitoring the situation in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day 2020.