Situation in Northern Ireland - 25 February 2020
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has updated its COVID-19 advice in line with the rest of the UK in light of new cases emerging in several countries.
Dr Muhammad Sartaj, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “With parts of Italy now coming within the guidance, we appreciate that people who may have travelled to the country recently will be concerned and are seeking advice. This includes parents of children who may have been on school trips over half-term, so we are liaising with Department of Education, Education Authority, and schools, to advise on the impact of the newly-updated guidelines, and how they apply in each set of circumstances.
“Travellers who have been to 11 specific towns in Italy must self-isolate [see notes to editors].
“Anyone who has been in northern Italy (not including Pisa, Florence or Rimini) is asked to stay at home for 14 days if they develop cough, fever, or difficulty breathing and seek medical advice.
“The guidelines apply equally to all travellers to areas covered, whether travel has been for a holiday, school trip, business, or other reason.
“We would urge travellers to any area covered by the guidelines, or those who care for anyone who has travelled, to check the advice, identify if the travel has taken place in any of the relevant areas, and take steps as required. People who have been in contact with those who have travelled in any of the relevant areas do not need to take any steps.”
Advice for travellers with symptoms
If you have been to:
- Northern Italy (not including, Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar since 19 February 2020; or
- China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau in the last 14 days
and have cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, please self-isolate and contact your GP by phone.
If you are not registered with a GP in Northern Ireland, please contact your local Emergency Department. Please do not attend the surgery or hospital without phoning in advance. If it is a medical emergency, call 999 and inform the call handler of your recent travel history.
Advice for travellers without symptoms
Even if you have no symptoms, if you have been to:
- Hubei Province (including Wuhan) in the last 14 days; or
- Iran, specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy [see notes to editors], or special care zones of South Korea [see notes to editors], since 19 February 2020,
please return home, contact the special coronavirus helpline on 0300 200 7885 and follow this advice:
- Stay indoors and avoid contact with others as much as possible for 14 days after you arrive
- Do not go to work, school or public areas
- Avoid visitors in your home
- Do not use public transport or taxis
There is evidence that human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 is occurring and is spread from person to person by close contact.
Some examples of how it can be spread include:
- large droplets from coughing and or sneezing by an infected person within a short distance (usually one metre or less) of someone
- touching or shaking the hand of an infected person and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands
- touching surfaces or objects (such as door handles) that have become contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands
Dr Sartaj added: “The PHA is working with partners across the UK including Public Health England, as well as the Department of Health and health trusts in Northern Ireland, and the health service in the Republic of Ireland, on the ongoing global novel coronavirus response.
“To help reduce any potential spread of coronavirus, the PHA is also urging people to follow the steps that we recommend for similar illnesses such as cold and flu – catch it, bin it, kill it. Always carry tissues to catch your cough or sneeze, dispose of the tissue as soon as possible after using it, and clean your hands as soon as you can as germs can spread to every surface you touch.”
Latest Northern Ireland case data
As of 26 February 2020 at 2pm, there have been 52 concluded tests since testing began, of which 52 were confirmed negative, and 0 were confirmed positive.
Advice for travellers
People who plan to travel should check the travel advice on: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
Public Health Advice
Like seasonal flu, the same public health advice applies for COVID-19 (Coronavirus): if you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, throw it away carefully after use, and wash your hands.
Once flu and similar infectious viruses begin to spread, the main method that can prevent further spread, is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands regularly will help prevent flu and other viruses spreading.
If you do become unwell and suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19 you should stay at home and phone your GP for advice. For further information see guidance given under advice for travellers.
It is also important to remember that a course of antibiotics won’t sort out your cold or flu. Cold and flu are viruses and antibiotics are useless against them.
Staff Working in the Transport Sector
Staff and crew in contact with international passengers (or the general public) are not considered to be at a heightened risk of contracting coronavirus as a result of their work. This means that they are at no greater risk of contracting coronavirus than any other member of the public.
Staff are not recommended to wear respiratory masks. They do not provide protection from respiratory viruses. Respiratory masks are only recommended to be worn by symptomatic passengers to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.
PHA recommends that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person. Any member of staff who deals with members of the public from behind a screen will be protected from airborne particles
Advice for medical professionals can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/collections/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice: www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
For further information on coronavirus see: www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus