— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 25, 2020
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
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