HEALTH MINISTER Simon Harris has urged people to adhere to public health protocols after the first coronavirus case on the island of Ireland was confirmed this morning.
Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency announced the case during a briefing in Belfast.
The infected patient previously travelled from northern Italy via Dublin, leading to fears that the virus could have spread into Ireland.
Mr Harris was keen to stress that the country has been preparing for such a situation for a while now.
"Giving the evolving situation this first case of COVID-19 disease was not unexpected. The National Public Health Emergency Team has been planning for this scenario since January.
"The general public should continue to adhere to the public health protocols issued by the Department of Health."
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, explained that someone would have to spend more than 15 minutes in close contact with an infected person to stand a chance of contracting coronavirus and that transmission though "casual contact" was unlikely.
"The HSE is well-prepared and is working to inform any contacts the patient had in order to prevent transmission," Holohan said.
"COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person’s body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
"Close contact involves either face to face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person. The risk of transmission through casual contact is low."
Meanwhile, Dublin Airport have said they won't be screening passengers for the killer virus for the time being.
"We are following all public health advice in relation to Coronavirus/COVID-19," said a spokesperson.
"Health advice is that screening is not required at Irish airports at this time & that the World Health Organisation does not recommend screening."