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‘Robust’ measures as Northern Ireland’s first Covid-19 patient is identified

UK News | Published:

Experts reassured the public that the risk to the rest of the population was low.

The first case of Covid-19 has been identified in Northern Ireland.

The adult patient had returned from northern Italy, travelling from Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said.

The individual followed advice in reporting concerns to a GP and “self isolated” at home whilst awaiting the results of testing.

Those most at risk who were in close proximity are being traced and checked, Dr McBride added.

Dr McBride said: “The risk to the rest of the population is low.”

The positive result has been sent to Public Health England laboratories for verification.

A special unit has been established at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for isolating those suffering from the virus but the health authorities were unable to confirm where the individual is being treated.

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Dozens of people have returned a negative result from testing in Northern Ireland.

Pupils from three schools in Northern Ireland were sent home as a precaution after visiting Italy.

Dr McBride added: “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.

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“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.”

He said the patient was receiving specialist care.

“Public health staff are working rapidly to identify any contacts the patient has had with the aim of preventing further spread.”

He said the health service in Northern Ireland was well used to dealing with such infections and reassured the public about the state of preparedness.

Royal Victoria Hospital – Belfast
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast (Paul Faith/PA)

“This individual took that appropriate advice, made appropriate contact with a general practitioner and indeed has taken steps to self-isolate at home whilst awaiting the results of the test.”

He said the risk of transmission was high only in those people with close personal, face-to-face, contact or those within two metres of an individual for more than 15 minutes.

“The public should be reassured that those who have had casual passing contact need not have any concerns.”

Ireland’s Health Minister, Simon Harris, said it was “not unexpected”.

The Republic’s National Public Health Emergency Team has been planning for this scenario since January.

The minister said the public should continue to adhere to public health protocols issued by the Department of Health.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer in the Department of Health, said: “The Health Service Executive is well-prepared and is working to inform any contacts the patient had in order to prevent transmission.”

The new strain of coronavirus originated last year in Hubei province in China.

It produces flu-like symptoms.

China has seen thousands of infections and deaths.

It has spread to Italy, Germany and other European countries during a worldwide march also encompassing large parts of Asia and the Middle East.

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