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Coronavirus warnings outside CUH A&E, CorkPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Coronavirus warnings outside CUH A&E, CorkPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
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Coronavirus update: All hospitals in Cork now closed to visitors

Update 7pm:

ALL hospitals in Cork have now implemented strict visitor restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement tonight, the HSE said the restrictions have been introduced with immediate effect across the South/ South West Hospital Group.

The hospitals are: Cork University Hospital; Cork University Maternity Hospital; University Hospital Kerry;

University Hospital Waterford; South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital Mercy University Hospital Bantry General Hospital; Mallow General Hospital.

In a statement, the HSE said: "This is in the interest of patient care and in order to prevent the spread of infection. Anyone with any queries about visiting times or visiting a particular hospital should ring the respective hospital directly.

"We regret any inconvenience caused to patients and relatives by these necessary measures. All infection control measures are in place and every effort is being made by each hospital to manage and contain the spread of infection.

"Management at the South/South West Hospital Group have requested that where appropriate the public contact their GP/Out of Hours service in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to presenting to Emergency Departments if their needs are not urgent.

UPDATED 4PM

HSE South has moved to allay public concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr Augustine Pereira, Director of Public Health, HSE South has said the approach to containing the coronavirus has not changed despite 60 staff being told the self-isolate due to potential contact with a Covid-19 patient at Cork University Hospital (CUH)

"We know that people are understandably concerned at this time. You will be aware from media reports that this region currently has one patient with confirmed Covid-19. No travel to an affected are outside Ireland has been identified. It is possible that some degree of community transmission may have occurred. This was expected to happen at some stage. However, I reiterate that it does not change our management approach. Ireland remains in the containment phase. That means that all efforts are being made to identify contacts and to give them specific public health advice.

"The family and close community contacts of the patient have been informed and public health advice given to them.

Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital re: the Covid-19 outbreakPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital re: the Covid-19 outbreak
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

"Some days elapsed after admission to the CUH and as a consequence public health department have been working with the hospital to risk assess any contact with the patient during his stay in the hospital.

“We want to assure you that work is well advanced on contact tracing. This means that we are in the process of identifying contacts of the patient and giving appropriate public health advice.

"As a consequence, staff and other patients who attended the hospital during a certain period are being contacted. We aim to contact trace everyone we can today. If people do not hear from us today or over the weekend, they do not need to be concerned.”

Dr Pereira added:

“The best advice I can give the general public right now in relation to limiting the spread of COVID-19 is to:

1) Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.

2) Practice good respiratory etiquette, that means catching your coughs or sneezes ideally in a tissue or in your elbow.

3) See hse.ie/coronavirus for all the best and most up-to-date information. If you have particular concerns, you can ring HSE live on 1850 24 1850 We won’t speak about individual cases, but we do want to reassure people that the majority of people who acquire this virus, which from what we have learned so far is that up to eight out of every ten will have mild symptoms.”

UPDATED 1.40PM:

The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) meanwhile says its members are reporting that 80 per cent of their corporate bookings are being cancelled as a result of the outbreak.

It is calling for urgent support for the sector, including an immediate reduction of the VAT rate to 9 per cent for a period of six months. It also wants employer PRSI to be halved to support employers as well as the introduction of a moratorium on VAT payments.

“Decisive action needs to be taken immediately. My members need to know that the government supports them in this crisis and that the survival of Irish businesses is a top priority,” said Adrian Cummins, CEO of the RAI.

“We have a potential recession situation on our hands due to the spread of COVID-19. Irish Food and Restaurant businesses were already struggling to stay afloat throughout 2020 due to the high costs of doing business, but if the OECD predictions come true, Irish businesses are due to fare much worse,” he added.

Meanwhile, access remains restricted to patients only at the Mater Private hospital in Cork.

The restrictions were put in place yesterday (Thursday).

In a statement, the hospital said: "Mater Private Cork is not a designated receiving hospital for suspected or confirmed case of novel coronavirus. The designated hospitals in Cork, as per HSE and HPSC are Cork University Hospital (CUH) and Mercy Hospital.

"As a precaution, on the advice of experts and in the interest of patient safety, Mater Private Cork is restricting visitor access until further notice."

A spokesperson confirmed that appointments will continue as normal and the restrictions remain in place for now.

A run on sales of pasta at Dunne’s, Bishopstown, Cork due to Coronavirus Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
A run on sales of pasta at Dunne’s, Bishopstown, Cork due to Coronavirus
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

UPDATED 12PM:

MERCY University Hospital has introduced visitor restrictions.

A statement from the hospital read: 

"As a precautionary measure in response to recent developments in Cork relating to Covid 19 and in the interest of patient and staff safety, visiting restrictions are now in place. This decision will be reviewed on a daily basis and regular updates will be provided." 

The restrictions are as follows:

"Visiting is restricted to patients who are critically ill or who have specific care needs · Only one visitor per patient is allowable at one time (except in exceptional cases). Children are not allowed to visit (excepting exceptional cases again). Visitors are only allowed in during the approved visiting times MUH apologises for the inconvenience caused and we appreciate your co-operation on this matter."

Meanwhile, access remains restricted to patients only at the Mater Private hospital in Cork.

The restrictions were put in place yesterday (Thursday).

In a statement, the hospital said: "Mater Private Cork is not a designated receiving hospital for suspected or confirmed case of novel coronavirus. The designated hospitals in Cork, as per HSE and HPSC are Cork University Hospital (CUH) and Mercy Hospital.

"As a precaution, on the advice of experts and in the interest of patient safety, Mater Private Cork is restricting visitor access until further notice."

A spokesperson confirmed that appointments will continue as normal and the restrictions remain in place for now.

Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital re: the Covid-19 outbreakPicture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital re: the Covid-19 outbreak
Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
UPDATED 11AM: 

MEDICAL students at University College Cork (UCC), who are on clinical attachment at Cork University Hospital (CUH), have been told that the hospital is now closed to them.

Furthermore, all structured teaching at the hospital has been postponed.

A spokesperson for the University said that the HSE has not advised UCC to take any additional steps for its campus at this time. “University Management are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to take the advice of the national authorities,” the spokesperson said.

The latest measures are just some of a number of restrictions which have been put in place at CUH. Last night, authorities confirmed that a male patient from the south of the country was being treated at the hospital for COVID-19. The case is the first instance of reported community transmission of the illness in the country.

Strict visitor restrictions have been introduced at the hospital, and all outpatient appointments have been cancelled in the facility today. Management say all patients will be rescheduled as soon as possible and patients will be contacted if there are further cancellations. Dialysis, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and infusions are proceeding as planned.

Cork University Maternity Hospital has also introduced visitor restrictions and all gynaecology outpatient appointments are cancelled for today.

CUH has the highest number of admitted patients waiting for beds for the third day running.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), 46 people are on trolleys there.

Elsewhere in Cork, 14 patients are waiting on trolleys at the Mercy University Hospital while a further six patients are waiting for beds at Bantry General Hospital.

It comes as management at the South/South West Hospital Group urge the public to contact their GP/Southdoc in the first instance, where appropriate, and explore all other options available to them prior to presenting to emergency departments in the city if their needs are not urgent.

Nationally, 359 patients are waiting for beds at hospitals around the country.

EARLIER:

MORE than 60 staff members at Cork University Hospital have been told to self isolate after over fears of a coronavirus outbreak.

It is understood the fears are related to a possible community transmission of Covid-19.

Liam Woods, the HSE's national director of community operations, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme that contact tracing has taken place and people who treated the on confirmed case at CUH have been notified.

There are over 3,000 people working at the hospital.

A patient diagnosed with coronavirus at Cork University Hospital had spent a number of days in the emergency department before the diagnosis was made.

The Cork man, aged in his 40s, became the first in the country to catch the infection through community transmission.

The circumstances of the diagnosis have sparked fears that staff or other patients could be infected.

Two doctors and nurses who treated him were sent home to self-isolate yesterday. Other patients at CUH are being assessed.

The patient had been taken to CUH by ambulance, complaining of pains in his head. He spent time in A&E before being discharged. He was readmitted in recent days and tested for the virus. The National Virus Reference Laboratory confirmed a positive test yesterday.

The patient was being cared for in an Intensive Care Unit last night.