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Paul Reid: Public needs to keep focused but there shouldn't be panic over coronavirus

[timgcap=Paul Reid (right) with Dr Ronan Glynn, Simon Harris, and Dr Sarah Doyle]CoronavirusPressConferenceDrRonanGlynnSimonHarrisDrSarahDoylePaulReid_large.jpg[/timgalfaspecial]

The director-general of the Health Service Executive (HSE), Paul Reid has described the coronavirus as “an unprecedented situation” and called on the public to “keep focused.”

Mr Reid told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that he was urging the public to do everything asked of them by the HSE and public health officials. People shouldn’t create a sense of panic nor should there be a sense of complacency.

He said that €20m is being spent to bring 25 new ICU beds into operation, with recruitment taking place to staff them. A further €20m has also been spent on protective equipment for staff.

Mr Reid said he understood the frustration when the HSE declined to name schools involved, but said that it was a challenge for the HSE to “get the right balance” for the appropriate actions for the benefit of “everyone across the country.”

He encouraged everyone to go to the HSE website for detailed advice and said that the contact traceability process is ongoing in the west of Ireland and that where schools were involved they have been informed.

We have to ensure we don’t have areas stigmatised or panic. It is not good practice to identify anyone in this process.

Hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette were important to keep the virus in the containment phase, he said. “We are following WHO and ECDC advice. We are monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.”

Mr Reid said there was no doubt that Ireland is now in an unprecedented situation and that this was a virus that spreads quickly. A longer containment phase meant that the health service can build capacity.

He declined to predict the numbers that could be infected by the virus. The aim is to prevent a surge of people going to hospital which was why home testing by the ambulance service had been introduced.

Part of the HSE’s escalation plan is to contain the surge, to increase ICU beds and for hospitals to plan "a pathway” of where cases will be brought.

The HSE will do what is required, resources will be provided to contain the virus for as long as possible, he said. If staff get sick themselves then agency nurses will be brought it.

Mr Reid added that the HSE has gotten the fullest support from the government. He went on to thank the staff in the public health service for their “very inspiring response which has been phenomenal.

“There is a need for the public to take this seriously, if they do we will contain this for as long as possible. But we have to prepare for the next scenario.”