Proportionate Measures


From Ireland V Italy game in Six Nations in 2013; and Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical officer at the Department of Health on RTÉ News last night

This morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to meet representatives of the Irish Rugby Football Union after it sought “reasoning” behind Mr Harris’ call to cancel the Six Nations Ireland V Italy rugby game on March 7 because of a coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

Last night, the IRFU released a statement saying:

“The IRFU is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Harris as to the specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the Ireland V Italy Six Nations fixture in the context of the Government’s overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries.

“Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the Minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further.

It’s been reported there have been 90 suspected cases tested in Ireland but none have tested positive for the virus.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Jackie Fox spoke to Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health and asked him if it would be possible for the game to be played “behind closed doors”.

Dr Holohan said that would be a matter for the IRFU.

Ms Fox also asked him about St Patrick’s Day.

From the interview…

Dr Tony Holohan: “This won’t be the only mass gathering that we will look at. But this was one that was coming quite soon and obviously involving an area in Europe that has been added to the list of countries that you’ve just outlined where community transmission is taking place and we felt we couldn’t make no other responsible advice or decision.”

Jackie Fox: ‘But there’s nothing to stop the 2,500 thousand Italian fans still travelling to Ireland. Should flights have been cancelled rather the game?”

Holohan: “No, we don’t think that would be a proportionate measure. The WHO is not recommending cancellation of, or restrictions on foreign travel. We make specific travel advisories available and in this country we do that through the Department of Foreign Affairs and their website there. And we make available information then through the points of entry to the country to raise awareness.

“And we’ll be stepping up that as part of the decision that was taken yesterday with more information and physical presence of HSE staff and more posturing and leaflets and so on at the airport. To raise awareness of the symptoms that could occur so if you’ve travelled back from one of the listed areas that you’ve set out which are Japan, Singpore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, and one of the four regions, now identified in Northern Italy, which are Lombardy and Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte alongside mainland China.

“If you’ve come back from any of those regions in the last 14 days and experienced flu-like symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or a fever, you should stay at home, make contact with your GP and be guided by your GP from there. ”

Fox: “The IRFU are meeting with the minister today. If they choose not to take this advice, do authorities have the power to stop this fixture from going ahead?”

Holohan: “I think the IRFU is a responsible organisation and will be willing to work with us to ensure that a measure that we have advised like this which nobody wants to find ourselves in a position of having to to cancel or recommend not take place, I’m sure that they, as a responsible organisation, will be, just as we are, minded to act in the interests of the health and welfare, not only of their spectators but for their players.”

Fox: “But could they, for instance, play the game behind closed doors?”

Holohan: “Well, that will be a matter for them.”


Holohan: “It is an unfolding infection. We don’t know everything about it. We know that the pattern of severity in relation to it, based on the information about it out of China and other places that have experiencing significant number of cases can be severe, that in 20% of cases, approximately, people have a severe illness. And in a small percentage of cases but it would be substantially higher that is currently the case with ‘flu, unfortunately deaths are occurring at a rate of about 2%. But that is not insignificant and it would be nothing other than irresponsible of us if we weren’t to respond fully with the containment measures that we now have in place to try and limit the spread of that in the first instance and prepare ourselves fully in the event that we do have community transmission taking place in this country to minimise the impact on the population here.”

Fox: “Briefly, can I just ask you briefly about the next mass gathering that’s due here, on St Patrick’s Day. Are there plans or is that being looked at at the moment?”

Holohan: “Mass gatherings of all kinds take place all of the time as I’m sure you know from small meetings to large conferences and sporting and other fixtures. So as well as the decision that we recommended in relation to the rugby match, we’ve set up a process to enable anybody, any organiser of a mass gathering to get in touch and for us to consider, according to the guidelines I mentioned, the guidelines that would have informed our decision yesterday in relation to the match, to give that advice in relation to those mass gatherings.

It can be difficult to predict for something that’s a number of weeks away because we could find ourselves in a situation where other regions of the world are affected. Italy was not an area of concern for us a week ago and it’s now the reason why we’ve made this recommendation. So this is a fast-changing situation so it’s impossible to make a prediction now as to where we might be for a an event that could be, you know, five, six weeks, or more weeks away.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: La Forza De Destino 

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50 thoughts on “Proportionate Measures

        1. dav

          white collar, probably fleecing money from the state via “tax breaks” or “investment vehicles” but it’s not theft you see, it’s solid “investment”

    1. The Old Boy

      I don’t know, If Simon Harris told the press that I had to do something for the sake of the nation’s health and well-being, I’d be a more than a little miffed if he hadn’t discussed it with me first.

  1. wearnicehats

    After Sunday’s horror show I’m all for the rugby being cancelled. I’m definitely up for the 17th March vomit-fest being cancelled too. I’m also feeling a bit sniffly today and, despite it being winter and really cold, I certainly need to self isolate for a few days. Maybe in Portugal.

    This total hysteria has to be nipped in the bud though.

  2. bisted

    …between hotel and cruise lock-ins, mid-term ski trip casualties, rugby trip cancellations…is this plague at risk becoming a fashion statement in Europe?

    1. some old queen

      I miss lock-ins. A certain venue which was owned by a well known band along the quays used to throw the maddest ones every time a big band or DJ came to Dublin- good times.

    1. ReproBertie

      I’d imagine it’s the total opposite and they’re itching for a chance to get back out and shake off the defeat.

  3. Dr.Fart

    Rugby uber alles! even life. christ.. imagine dying, because the IRFU really wanted us to play Italy. Not even good opposition, not even an important game. unreal.

    1. Salmon Eile

      Agreed! Ban it. Send a message to the FG Sheepcoat Gammon in the stands and their offspring in fee-paying schools.

      Fuppin’ oul wans.

  4. Dr.Fart

    it’s not really a time for “ah it’ll be grand” levels of Irish response. Who cares about playing Italy in one random 6 nations? some ties in IRFU? fupp em. dont risk lives because some old blackrock alumni want to watch it on saturday with their dumb rich pals.

  5. GiggidyGoo

    So – the Italian supporters who have paid for their airline tickets and accommodation. They are hardly going to cancel are they? Which means that they will be in Ireland anyway, and are as much a threat on the plane, in the hotels, bars as they would be at the match. So you can cancel the match, have the match behind closed doors where only the players will be at risk maybe, but the Italian supporters will be in Ireland regardless – unless the Airlines issue warnings against travel, in which case they may get refunds of their airline ticket.
    And of course it’s not just Italy – will airlines be grounded from all areas that has had outbreaks?

    1. ReproBertie

      The 2,500 Italian travelling fans would not be as much of a threat on the plane, in the hotels , bars etc as they will not come into contact with as many people as they would at a match attended by 50,000.

      They would still be a risk but the risk is reduced by preventing the mass gathering that the match brings about.

      1. dav

        I hope none of them use a taxi, and if yes that taxi doesn’t take any fares afterwards, and if yes those fares and if yes those fares go straight home and self isolate……

      2. GiggidyGoo

        Jeez. Are you really that dense?

        Wow, maybe I should ease back on my name calling and aggression.

        I probably don’t want to get banned.

        1. ReproBertie

          Rather than tossing insults around I suggest you go to the abysmal RTÉ player and watch last night’s Prime Time. Miriam asked the question about people being in bars etc and was told, repeatedly that the concern is around mass gatherings, not around people travelling. It may change as more information comes out but right now that’s where we are.

    2. Salmon Eile

      And where are they going to congregate you numpty? At the next Sinn Fein mass meeting? That’s the whole point – mass contact, not 1-on-1.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        If the match went ahead with no attendance, there are such things as TVs and I think a fair lot of hotels and bars might have such things.
        If the match doesn’t go ahead, then they’d be here on a short holiday break. They wouldn’t have to congregate then now would they?
        All it takes is one by the way.
        Are you always that far behind in the brain stakes?

        1. Ringsend Incinerator

          Why is the focus on Italian fans?

          It’s almost as if no Irish people with rugby tickets have travelled to CoronaVirus countries recently. No, none at all.

          Ban the bloody game FFS.

          1. ReproBertie

            Right now there is only one case where asymptomatic transmission has been “suggested” and it is being considered an anomaly by those studying the virus. That’s why the advise is only to self isolate if people are symptomatic rather than shutting down schools where students have returned from Italy.

        2. ReproBertie

          “All it takes is one by the way”
          Yes and we can’t stop the one but we can limit the number of people they come into contact with by, for example, preventing them attending an event with 50,000 others.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      The right decision.
      I can see why the IRFU seeked clarification – Harris can be very vague and empty in what he comes out with.

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