“There Aren’t Wider Implications For Families Or For The Community”


From top: Scoil Chaitriona, Glasnevin, Dublin 9; Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health; letter sent from HSE/Department of Health to parents of pupils attending

This morning.

Bryan Dobson spoke to chief medical officer Tony Holohan on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

It follows the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the Republic of Ireland, prompting the closure of a Dublin secondary school for two weeks. Officials are not publicly naming the school however it has been identified as Scoil Chaitriona in Dublin 9 on social media last night.

A student at the school tested positive for the virus after returning from northern Italy. He is being treated in isolation in hospital.

Bryan Dobson: “What’s the situation in so far as you can discuss it in relation to this individual at the moment?”

Tony Holohan: “So we confirmed on Saturday that we have had our first case as you say. We’re one of the last countries in Europe to identify a case of this infection. We’ve identified that it is a male from the east of the country. We’ve said the case is associated with travel back to the country from an infected area, in this case northern Italy.

“That’s the amount of information that we’ll generally give with any confirmed cases when we have then. We don’t go further in terms of details for reasons I’d be happy to explain but it’s about protecting the privacy and the confidentiality of the individual concerned and to ensure that we can continue to commit to the public that if they respond to the symptoms and to the advice that we’ve given out in relation to symptoms and they make contact with the health service, their confidentiality will be protected.

“They can be assured that we’ll do everything we can to protect them and that would give the greatest chance, we feel, of people coming forward freely, willingly, to report symptoms.”

Dobson: “Ok, I’ll come back to this question of the amount of information you can give at any given time in a few minutes. But, just in relation to the school then, at the centre of this, it’s closing now for 14 days. But what of the advice to staff and pupils there and their families. Staff and pupils are being told, is that right, to limit their social interaction for the next fortnight? What does that mean?”

Holohan: “So this step results from the process of risk assessment that was undertaken as a result of the contact tracing exercise by public health doctors that was undertaken once we were notified of this particular case. And it identify a school in the east of the country.

“The assessments of the public health doctors in relation to the contacts in the school led to conclude that this measure was needed. What it means, a series of measures, and it’s been  set out in letter to each of the parents that we sent last night, advising that the children and the teachers in the school staff, staff in the school, would limit their social interactions in so far as is possible. They would avoid social gatherings and crowded settings, that they wouldn’t attend school or work or sporting events and a range of other practical things like that.

“This is a measure which is focused on the children and the staff of the school. It’s not focused on their families and it’s not focused on the wider community.

“That message that was contained in the letter was supported also by the establishment of of a telephone helpline and details were set out in the letter to the parents and also will be supported by a public meeting tonight and details of that will be made available. I know that the HSE  are making arrangements to have a meeting this evening, to answer questions that the local community and the parents in particular will have.

“There will be follow-up by public health doctors so each of the parents will get a text message on each of the days of the incubation period, asking them whether or not their child, or whether they as a staff member have symptoms. And, in the event that they say ‘yes’ to that text message, they will have follow-up engagement with public health doctors.

“The purpose of that is to, at the earliest possible stage, to identify if another case or if anybody comes unwell, as soon as possible.”

Dobson: “But just to be clear about this. The parents who have children in this school and other family members, they can continue to go about their lives as normal, go into college, school, work and so forth?”

Holohan: “Yes they can because just to explain that to you Bryan. The assessment of the public health doctors relates to the contact of these children and staff may have had with the case.

“The concern does not go beyond that to people who have had contact with those individuals, if you understand me. So it’s only people who might have come into direct contact with somebody who has now been confirmed as a case. So there aren’t wider implications for families or for the community.”

Dobson: “So in terms of a student in a school, it’s fairly obvious to state that people they sit in class with or teachers they would have that close contact. But what about other people who may have had close contact with them, you know, on public transport, in the street and other such gatherings? Are those people being traced aswell?”

Holohan: “So the contact tracing exercise is comprehensive and it looks at all of those exposures that might occur. And it’s all based on interviews with the family concerned, with the case concerned, to try and identify exactly those things that you’ve outlined there. But the significant thing that’s been identified as part of this was that there was a school involved and the risk assessment has led to this decision and this recommendation.”


Dobson: “You’ve made the point before and you’re making it again that you’d like people to get their information from people like yourself, from the HSE, from what are often described as trusted media sources. But, in effect, by declining to identify, in this case, the particular school, are you not driving people to social media, where they’re looking for this information?”

Holohan: “So, anybody who has access to social media has access to hse.ie. The information there is absolutely comprehensive, it’s trustworthy. That’s the source of information that parents should use….Much of the information that is circulated on social media, it’s false. It’s simply false and people cannot trust that as a source of information unless they know that through that particular medium, it’s coming from a trusted source.”

Listen back in full here

Pic: Daniel McConnell

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34 thoughts on ““There Aren’t Wider Implications For Families Or For The Community”

  1. Lilly

    RTE really in the twilight zone as they persist in referring to a school ‘in the eastern part of the country’. What demographic are they targeting these days, the illiterate?

    Meanwhile, I’ve heard of another school due to go on a ski trip to northern Italy in two weeks’ time and the principal is refusing to call it off.

  2. Murtles

    Best of luck keeping 400 teenagers indoors for 2 weeks. Suppose 1% were infected and stay home but Mum and Dad have to go to work or brother and sister at another school have to attend.

    1. John

      Youre right. They cant be allowed out!!
      They should release all the names and addresses of all the kids and parents with photos so we know who these people are if we see them on the street.
      The HSE should then issue us with 2m long pitch forks so we can ensure we maintain the proper distance from them at all times.

    2. Listrade

      You kidding me? Best of luck trying to get 400 teenagers to go outside for 5 minutes. Most I know would love 14 days isolation and PS4.

  3. 01101101 01100011

    what a farce

    this approach of secrecy might have worked in the 1980’s but it’s simply impossible in the connected world we live in today and anyone who believes otherwise is delusional or living in a timewarp. if anything it’s encouraging mistrust and fear.

    I listened this morning to a highly educated and experienced doctor defend the approach – one of his tenets was that it was shown to produce a positive outcome of population calming/control by virtue of the delay it achieves (a few days is what he proffered) for the equation. I get the reasoning but a delay of a few days?? is he from 1983?

    socmed completely eliminates any and all prior rules for the dissemination of information for his type of scenario, ridiculous!

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      +1 Complete lack of understanding of how information is disseminated in 2020 and the proliferation of misinformation. That old style of secrecy is still rampant in the health service, as we well know. ‘Tell ’em nothing’ is an Irish political trait.

      1. scottser

        well i shall be writing a stiffly worded telegram to the newspapers to register my disgust.

          1. Matt Pilates

            Dear Sir,

            Surely the HSE must have know that the social media news about COVID-19 would go viral?

            Yours, etc.,

            Paul Delaney
            Co. Dublin

  4. Baz

    The HSEs communications team are operating from a time machine that has transported them to 1987

    They will operate in the style and tradition of the era.

  5. JamesJoist

    social media is known as a notorious vector for deliberate fake news , it’s hard to believe that the Committee would rather the public become aware of the name of the school from that source. I would love to have been privey to the discussion that lead to that strategic decision, let’s hope there are minutes of meetings being kept .

      1. Paulus

        And “parking up” (the car) – we used to just park.
        And “Happy out” – we used to be just plain happy!!

        Oh and “Rocking up”..see further down!!!

  6. fakelikes

    so how many of these students families will take this opportunity to go on Holidays during this 2 weeks?

    Why hasnt the dept instructed the dept of education to halt all ski trips to northern Italy?

    Teachers… not content with 3 months holidays now get paid ski trips. When did that become a thing in schools?

    1. Fergalito

      Ah yeah, make it about the teachers. Good on ya.

      Fancy taking responsibility for a clatter of teenagers for two weeks in Italy or anywhere for that matter?

    2. curmudgeon

      “A big thanks to [ 6 mentioned teachers] who gave up their mid term break to assist the Colaiste Phobail Leamhcain TY students on their skiing trip to Italy” – Lucan Newsletter 01March2020

      Lucky they weren’t on strike that week huh

    3. Custo

      I left school in 95 and it was a thing then. And it wasn’t a fancy private school. It was in an area usually prefaced by ‘man shot dead in’ in the media..

  7. Jeffrey

    The only gobpoos to even mention Privacy and confidentiality blabla…. No other country are blabbing such rubbish in the middle of an possible pandemic. Of course you dont reveal details of the patient! But you make sure to get people informed as to where exactly the patient comes from, where he/she was! Also the “low risk of infection” when they admit to listen to EDC who have the level at very high is laughable. Those clowns in the HSE were no good before the outbreak and they still are no good now.

    1. pedeyw

      Also if they gave out the name of the school we’d have a better idea of where to go with the flaming pitchforks.

  8. doobee23

    I have heard a new term for the coronavirus – DePopOpp It stands for depopulation opportunity. The way our government handle the still possible containment of this virus in Ireland will show us all very clearly how popular this term is (being whispered no doubt) in top level meetings. Treating it as if it isnt possible for it to spread aerobically (i.e. sharing the same air as an infected person, symptomatic or not) and not rolling out free testing stations for any and all is a clear indicator that a solution to the pension crisis and cost of care of the elderly crisis is too good to ignore.

    1. ReproBertie

      The fatality rate is 2% and that 2% are those with underlying illness. If they’re relying on this to depopulate anywhere they’re wasting their time.

      Do you have a smidgen of proof that Covid-19 can spread aerobically when the infected person is not symptomatic?

  9. Truth in the News

    What steps been taken to identify all travellers coming into ports of entry
    from regions where there is an outbreak, the reason for all the secrecy is
    that the Government and the HSE have no effective plan and want eliminate
    scrutiny and haven’t in place any mechanism to effect control or isolation of
    infected individuals from the population at large

    1. jamesjoist

      maybe , in the absence of face masks, they will issue barge poles to neighbours of infected people

  10. H

    The secrecy is hilarious in contrast to the BBC rocking up at every venue where there has been an outbreak in the UK and broadcasting pictures for the world to see. Transparency is always better because it disarms the fake news and gossip mongers

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