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Contact tracing of Clare coronavirus patients underway

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Contact tracing surrounding the four coronavirus cases involving a family from Co Clare is ongoing.

As reported by The Clare Echo on Wednesday night, a family from North-West Clare are being treated in an isolation unit. Four schools, three secondary and one primary have since closed in the area. The confirmation of sixth class pupils in the primary school has been postponed. The primary school and one secondary school are to close for fourteen days with the other two currently shut as a precautionary measure.

The Clare Echo understands that staff at one factory in Shannon have been tested today (Thursday) as have nurses working in the Accident and Emergency Unit at University Hospital Limerick. Scariff NS have issued a notice to parents informing them that ‘circulating rumours’ regarding a potential closure were untrue. “Please be advised that these stories are untrue, Scariff National School is open as usual”.

Students and staff at the University of Limerick have received correspondence that the latest four cases may lead to the restricting of numbers on campus in the near future.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the schools connected to the four individuals are liaising with the public health authorities. He stated that schools would be affected in a variety of ways and he confirmed contact tracing of the four cases was ongoing. A spokesperson for the HSE said the four cases discovered last night pose a significant contact tracing challenge but that good progress was made overnight

Different scenarios may arise at schools, the Minister highlighted, this include full closure to the cancellation of events or particular classes. He added that it was important schools did not act unilaterally.

Extra isolation and ICU facilities are being identified by the HSE, Harris commented. He said more funding would be made available and noted that not all patients would require hospitalisation.

HSE Chief Executive, Paul Reid defended the limited public information they have shared on confirmed Covid-19 cases and the associated work in tracing their close contacts and locations. He responded to questions from the media on whether the lack of details could be causing public anxiety and panic. He felt the HSE has been correct with regard to its approach to date.

Dr Sarah Doyle, HSE Consultant in Public Health told Thursday’s press briefing that personnel with very mild symptoms, will have to self-isolate if Ireland moves into the next phase of mitigation of the spread of Covid-19. Control measures may need to be introduced she said, “Everyone needs to get ready”. Doyle outlined that the HSE expects the coronavirus “will be spreading within our communities within weeks.”

Guidelines on mass gatherings will be published tomorrow after a stakeholder forum discusses them. The Department of Health will also meet patient advocacy groups to discuss the needs of vulnerable patients.

COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person’s body fluids (for example, droplets from coughing or sneezing). It is also spread by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on, which is one of the reasons why it is so important that people wash their hands regularly, practice respiratory etiquette, and try to avoid touching their face. The general public is advised to follow advice from the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre to protect their health.

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to show. Symptoms may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, fever (high temperature). COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can also cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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