Coronavirus: Keep 'common sense approach' to coronavirus, Foster

Arlene Foster arrives at meetingImage source, AFP/Getty Images

First Minister Arlene Foster has said the UK should maintain a "common sense approach" to the coronavirus.

Mrs Foster was speaking in London after an emergency Cobra meeting. The UK is remaining in the "containment" stage of its response to the coronavirus.

"The advice remains the same, if you have flu-like symptoms - stay at home and away from others," she said.

On Sunday, five people were diagnosed with coronavirus in NI, bringing the number of cases here to 12. 

Health officials are tracing people who may have been in contact with the latest cases.

The Cobra meeting was called to decide whether to bring in measures to delay the spread of coronavirus in the UK.

Banning big events and closing schools were said to have been considered, but Downing Street said the prime minister "will be guided by the best scientific advice" but there was no need to cancel sporting events at this stage.

Media caption,

Arlene Foster urges 'common sense approach'

DUP leader Mrs Foster told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that it was "a very useful engagement".

"That advice may change as the science changes but at the moment, that's where we are," she said.

"It's very uncertain for people planning or attending an event, but because it is a new virus which we haven't dealt with before, we have to take the scientific advice on this."

When asked about her plans to travel to the United States, along with Deputy First Minister Ms O'Neill, this week, she said: "The reason we go is because we have very good access to the leader of the US and businesses, but we have to balance that with the needs here in the UK so we will be looking at that in the coming hours."

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Meanwhile, two more cases were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number there to 21. One of the patients has an underlying condition and is seriously ill.

Health officials said both cases were community transmissions and did not involve people who had returned recently from at-risk areas.

Another two cases were confirmed in Wales on Monday morning, bring the UK total to 280.

Three new cases were confirmed in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Saturday's cases were adults who had recently travelled from Italy, which is at the centre of the European outbreak, and were linked to a previous case.

Image caption,
Three new cases were confirmed on Saturday and five more on Sunday

Details about Sunday's cases have not yet been released.

On Sunday night, it was announced a man in his 60s had become the third person in the UK to die after testing positive for coronavirus.

Football fixtures

A number of amateur football teams in Northern Ireland have postponed matches and cancelled training after a player was among those to test positive for coronavirus.

The player represents Portadown-based team Hanover FC, and the other clubs affected are Coagh United in County Tyrone and Glenavy-based Crewe United in County Antrim.

Other weekend developments include:

  • Tesco has begun rationing essential food and household items as a result of coronavirus stockpiling
  • The UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice, urging against "all but essential travel" to large parts of northern Italy
  • A group of 30 Britons and two Irish nationals were released from isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral on Sunday after returning from coronavirus-hit cruise ship, the Diamond Princess
  • Globally the number of infections has passed 100,000, with about 3,600 deaths recorded - the majority have been in China, where the virus originated in December.

The first case of coronavirus in Northern Ireland was confirmed on 27 February and was an adult who had travelled from northern Italy via Dublin.

Two more cases were confirmed on 4 March, one of whom was a postgraduate student at Queen's University in Belfast who had recently returned from northern Italy.

The other adult had been in contact with someone in the UK who had tested positive.

The fourth case, announced on Friday, is an adult who had recently returned from Italy - their diagnosis had been linked to a previous case.

For advice and the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak, the Public Health Agency has a dedicated website.