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Cork University Hospital has more than 3,000 staff but about 60 are in self-isolation
More than 60 staff at a hospital in Cork in the Republic of Ireland have been asked to self-isolate after a case of coronavirus at the hospital.
It is the first case of community transmission of coronavirus in Ireland.
Community transmission means the person neither travelled from an area affected by an outbreak nor had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
The case involves a male patient from the south of the country who is being treated at Cork University Hospital.
The hospital has imposed “strict visiting restrictions” and cancelled outpatients’ appointments on Friday.
The Republic of Ireland currently has 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in total, but the 12 others either travelled from northern Italy or had close contact with a confirmed case.
There have been three confirmed cases in Northern Ireland so far, bring the total on the island of Ireland to 16.
Anyone who has been in contact with the Cork University Hospital patient has already been traced and notified, according to Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE).
The HSE’s National Director of Acute Operations, Liam Woods, confirmed that the contact tracing process has been completed.
Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, he also said that it was concerning that a case of community transmission had been identified.
Cork University Hospital has a workforce of more than 3,000 people.
Mr Woods said it would be a significant challenge to cope without the 60 staff who are now in self-isolation and said workers would have to be redeployed and hospital services would be readjusted.
He added that any Irish healthcare workers who return from countries with an outbreak of coronavirus will also be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The latest cases south of the Irish border were announced on Thursday night by Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Seven new cases were confirmed, including the Cork University Hospital patient.
The others were four males from the east of the Republic of Ireland who had recently travelled from Italy, and two females in the west of the country who had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Their ages have not been released to protect patient confidentiality.
The HSE said it was “now working rapidly” to identify anyone they may have been in contact with, to prevent further spread of the infection.
One of the cases has been linked to Trinity College Dublin, which has 18,000 students and 3,000 staff.
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Trinity College told its staff and students it would “take all appropriate” steps to contain the virus
The college said it was informed of the case late on Thursday night and has since closed a section of its Dublin city centre campus as a precautionary measure.
However, the rest of the university is open and operating as normal.
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris has travelled to Brussels for another extraordinary meeting of EU ministers to co-ordinate their response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Harris and his counterparts from 26 other EU states will discuss the supplies of medicines and protective equipment.
The meeting will also be attended by representatives from the World Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency.