by Luke Watson
Worry has been setting in across the globe as the coronavirus Covid-19 spreads, with emerging outbreaks in Italy making a pan-European outbreak increasingly likely. With the number of cases in the UK coming in at least 20, and with one confirmed case in Northern Ireland, fear of an Irish outbreak is also rising. Hand sanitiser, face masks, and antibacterial soap are all dwindling in supply across Ireland as concerned citizens prepare for an Irish outbreak, which is predicted to be likely.
The Department of Health have announced that they do not suspect that there are any unidentified cases in Ireland. Unsubstantiated rumours of hospitals on lockdown and media blackouts have been circulating,
While the WHO have not declared Covid-19 a pandemic, there is a growing certainty that it will be. The stock markets have plunged, with the FTSE 100 leading index of companies losing £152 billion last week as shareholders sell off shares. Airlines and travel agents, naturally, have taken the hardest hit, as holidays and events have been cancelled en masse across Europe.
Covid-19 has a mortality rate of about 2%, usually affecting older people and those with respiratory issues or compromised immune systems. It is often mild or asymptomatic in healthy adults. Evidence so far demonstrates that for 80% of people with the virus, symptoms are mild. Nobody under 20 has died from the virus so far and deaths have generally occurred in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Less than 0.5% of people under 50 have died from the virus.
The case of Covid-19 in Belfast further increased fears of an outbreak on the island, especially after it was reported that the individual travelled through Dublin. Aer Lingus confirmed that the person travelled on the airline, travelling from Italy to Belfast via Dublin Airport. In a statement, it was made clear that “Aer Lingus is co-operating fully with the HSE in relation to the Covid-19 developments and is liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs, other government departments and the relevant authorities as required.”
Northern Ireland’s Public Health Authority (PHA) have confirmed that members of the public travelling on the route from Dublin to Belfast do not need to be concerned. Dr Jillian Johnston, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: “All stages of the individual’s journey were identified and those who came into closest contact have been traced and contacted with public health advice and guidance…I would emphasise that members of the public who have travelled between Dublin and Belfast using public transport need not be concerned.”
Regarding the growing fear surrounding the virus, Minster for Health Simon Harris has said that disinformation is one of the greatest challenges in beating Coronavirus. Speaking at a media event at Dublin airport to provide an update for travellers and the public after the first case of the virus on the island was identified in Belfast on Thursday, Harris said that “Accurate information is a major challenge when our public health experts are trying to convey facts and information to keep us safe and to keep us well.”
Any persons who have been to affected areas, or have been in contact with an affected person, are advised to contact their GP if they begin showing symptoms.