The first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, the Department of Health said on Saturday.
The patient, a male in the eastern part of the country, is currently receiving “appropriate medical care”.
“The patient was identified and tested in line with established protocols for the investigation of suspect cases of Covid-19,” the department said in a statement.
“The case is associated with travel from an affected area in northern Italy, rather than contact with another confirmed case.”
Speaking at a press briefing in Dublin on Saturday night, officials said the process of getting in touch with people who were in close contact with the man is just beginning.
“This process will take some time, but the people who need to be contacted will be contacted,” said Dr John Cuddihy, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
The person who had contracted the disease followed the advice of public health authorities and identified himself, enabling the diagnosis to be made, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan said.
“We are confident the systems we have in place, and that we’ve worked on for months, will work well,” he said.
Officials declined to specify the nationality of the person, whether he travelled on public transport, what airport he used, whether he travelled alone and whether this case is connected to the case reported in the North several days ago.
Dr Holohan said officials had to be careful about the amount of information provided. The reason for not providing more information was to protect the identity of the person affected and to avoid the person being identified publicly. This would lead to a feeling among the public that their privacy would not be protected in the event that they contacted the disease.
Dr Holohan, said the case was not a surprise and had not changed the view of officials about containing the disease. “There is still a high likelihood of containing the spread of this disease. We still have a high degree of confidence. The change of developing the disease in this country is extremely low”.
Up to last Friday, 115 tests had been carried out on suspected cases of the coronavirus, but all proved negative up to that point.
Speaking on Saturday, Mr Harris said: “This is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this since January.
“I would strongly encourage people to follow the guidance and advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, led by the chief medical officer.”
Mr Varadkar and Mr Harris earlier held a conference call with their counterparts in Northern Ireland on Saturday as the unidentified woman in Northern Ireland who recently came home from Italy and was suspected of being infected with the Covid-19 or new coronavirus, had her case confirmed.
Mr Varadkar and Mr Harris were joined on the call by Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, health minister Robin Swann, and the Northern Ireland chief medical officer, the Government said in a statement.
They discussed the situation regarding the virus on the island of Ireland, and also internationally, and noted the good co-operation in place between authorities north and south of the Border.
All agreed to continue the close co-operation and to remain in close contact in the period ahead, the statement said.
On Saturday the NI Public Health Agency (PHA) said it had received notification from its counterparts in England that the one presumptive case of coronavirus in Northern Ireland had been confirmed by the reference laboratory it was sent to.
The family at the centre of the case has asked that their privacy is respected given the personal impact of this issue, a PHA statement said.
The public in Northern Ireland have been advised that they have full access to the National Health Service’s 111 helpline, though the British service is only being made available for people from Northern Ireland in relation to coronavirus guidance and not for other conditions.
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew welcomed the high-level meeting. The party health spokesman said: “It is essential that public health authorities north and south work closely together and co-operate and community effectively in order to deal with this health emergency.
“Infections don’t recognise barriers or borders and neither should our approach.”
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