The St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, which usually draws a crowd of almost half a million people, has been cancelled because of fears over the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), it has been announced.
The parade in Cork, which is the second largest St Patrick's Day parade in the country, has also been cancelled. Many more smaller parades are also expected to be cancelled as a result.
There are now 21 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the Republic of Ireland, with a further 12 cases in Northern Ireland.
The latest two cases were reported by the Department of Health on Sunday and both were caused by community transmission - a female in the east and a male in the south.
The case in the south is associated with the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork and a risk assessment is underway.
According to the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland "remains in containment phase, with 21 cases to date, three of which are associated with community transmission".
"Most people who become infected with COVID-19 experience a mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for some. Every individual needs to be aware of how to protect their own health and the health of others," he commented.
He urged everyone to follow public health advice, including the following protective measures:
-Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
-Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing/sneezing
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
-Practice cough and sneeze hygiene - covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough/sneeze. Then dispose of the tissue immediately.
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.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature).
COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties.
Anyone who has been to an affected region (mainland China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Iran and northern Italy) in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms, should self-isolate and call their GP.
Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call their GP.
Italy remains the worst affected area in Europe, and has recorded the highest number of deaths from the illness outside of China. Over 7,000 cases have been confirmed there and more than 360 deaths.
As a result of this, around 16 million people in northern Italy have been placed under forced quarantine. Until April 3, people will not be able to enter or leave certain areas, including Lombardy, Venice and Piacenza.
For more information on COVID-19, click here or here.
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