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25th Feb 2020

Department of Health says Ireland vs Italy Six Nations game should not go ahead due to coronavirus

Guidelines on mass gatherings, such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade, will be issued shortly.

As the coronavirus death toll has risen to 10 in Italy as of today (Tuesday 25 February), Minister of Health Simon Harris has announced that his department will recommend that next month’s Six Nations game against Italy should not go ahead.

In an interview with RTÉ News on Tuesday evening, Harris stated:

“We’ve obviously taken a decision in relation to the Ireland v Italy rugby game, which was due to be held in Dublin on [Saturday] 7 March. The very clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game should not go ahead.

“That it would constitute a significant risk, because a very large number of people would be travelling from what is now an affected region. So my department will be contacting the IRFU in relation to this.

“I know it will come as a great disappointment to many, but it is important that we make decisions in relation to public health, above and beyond all other considerations.”

Harris was also asked about preparedness for large public groups around Ireland, such as St. Patrick’s Day events, before confirming that there is a plan in action for those:

“In regard to other events, we’ll be publishing guidelines which can assess the risk of those events. And we’ll be liaising with the organising of that as the situation continues to evolve.”

The Minister for Health also said that Irish airports will be taking more proactive steps this week.

“And finally, we’ve made the decision to step up visibility and information at our airports, in terms of personnel on the ground and also information leaflets, and we’ll be seeing more of that from tomorrow. At a political level, we’ll be briefing members of the opposition in relation to this tomorrow.”

Today alone, a number of schools in Northern Ireland told their students to stay home after returning from a recent trip to Italy, while Irish holidaymakers have been confirmed to be staying in the hotel that is currently under lockdown in Tenerife.

You can watch Harris’ full interview blow.