Covid-19: NI Total Jumps To 18

Two further cases of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus have been identified in Northern Ireland.

Both cases are adults and are "secondary transmissions", meaning they can be linked to another infected individual who travelled to northern Italy.

It brings totals in Northern Ireland to 18.

Some 246 tests have been carried out so far, with 18 returning a positive result. This figure is correct as of 2pm on Wednesday 11 March.

Work is now underway to identify any contact the individuals have had with other members of the public.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency clarified the protocol followed during the contact tracing process.

Anyone who has had close contact with a case in "the time they are considered to have been infectious" is contacted and categorised as either low or high risk- depending on the level of contact they have had with the infected individual.

Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said it's important to clarify that this does not include anyone the person may have passed on the street or in the shop.

"A close contact involves either face-to-face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person, such as family members, colleagues or fellow travellers," Dr Waldron advised.

"We collect information on these people and work to contact them as soon as possible. Once we have recorded the close contacts the patient had, we can categorise them into high or low risk, then contact them to provide advice on what they should do – this will vary depending on the level of contact they have had with the confirmed case.
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"If we believe a contact is at higher risk of infection they may be asked to self-isolate, remaining in their home and staying away from work, school or public places, and we contact them daily until they can be given the all-clear. If the person being monitored does develop symptoms, we would test them and provide them with specialist care.

"Some people will be identified as lower risk – for these people, we provide them with information on symptoms and guidance on what they should do if they become symptomatic. This would be to contact their GP by phone and provide details of their possible exposure, and avoid attending the GP or emergency department without ringing in advance. They will be asked to self-isolate and a test will be organised."

Those who have been tested and are awaiting their results are urged to self-isolate until they receive confirmation.

Meanwhile, a number of simple actions are advised to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus germs.

These are:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

• Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze, then bin the tissue and wash your hands (or use a sanitiser gel).

Further guidance, including advice for schools, employers and travellers is available via the Public Health Agency.

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