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Workplace meetings limited to 2 hours in office safety measures

Health officials to carry out business size risk assessments

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Dr Ronan Glynn speaking yesterday. Photo: Colin Keegan

Dr Ronan Glynn speaking yesterday. Photo: Colin Keegan

Colin Keegan

Dr Ronan Glynn speaking yesterday. Photo: Colin Keegan

Employers are being warned they should limit gatherings of staff in a room to no more than two hours - to minimise the risk of workers having to stay at home if one of them tests positive for the coronavirus.

It may mean colleagues, who were in the same room as a person who tests positive, will have to stay at home for two weeks as a precaution.

The advice was clarified by deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn yesterday, who said this will become more relevant as more people return to work.

The rule applies to workers in a "closed space" like an office, who are together for more than two hours if one of them is found to be diagnosed with the virus.

Complication

"Public health doctors will carry out a risk assessment and take into account the size of the room, ventilation and distance from the confirmed case," he said.

Anyone who is deemed to be a "close contact" may have to stay at home for two weeks.

"It's not the same as saying every business cannot have people in the room for more than two hours but if there is a confirmed case, as least some of them may be asked to stay at home," Dr Glynn added.

He said it re-emphasised the need for employers to have as many workers as possible continuing to work from home as business resumes.

They should also limit the number of people attending the meetings, he added.

Dr Glynn was speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing yesterday, in the absence of chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who was scheduled to take charge of the session.

Asked about the absence of Dr Holohan, he said he will be back working in the department today but did not elaborate any further.

There were 11 deaths from the virus reported yesterday, bringing the toll to 1,571.

A further 64 newly diagnosed cases were confirmed, a total of 24,315 people infected so far.

Figures show 87.1pc of people who caught the virus here have recovered - 19,224 in the community and 1,036 who were admitted to hospital.

Despite the downward trend, Dr Glynn said there remained people falling ill with the virus and 16 patients were admitted to hospital with complications of the infection in the previous 24 hours.

Asked about plans by four in 10 pubs in Dublin to open as restaurants next month, he said it would have to be done in a safe manner.

Pubs serving alcohol cannot open next month and according to the exit roadmap it should not happen until August.

He indicated the scheduled roadmap is likely to be followed with no decisions made to fast forward any of the planned reopenings.

Schools

However, he did indicate the National Public Health Emergency Team will discuss activities for children tomorrow, although schools will remain closed until September.

Asked about resumption of school classes before the end of this term, he said experts here were learning from other countries when schools were reopened.

He said 16 staff who worked in meat plants have been hospitalised so far with the virus and four infected members of the Roma community have died.

Meanwhile, Dublin's Rotunda Hospital has resumed its clinics to provide urgent examinations for women who have been referred after receiving an abnormal cervical screening result.

A spokeswoman said the colposcopy services at the Rotunda have returned and in recent weeks it has operated for women referred with urgent smear results who had been through the CervicalCheck service.

Suspended

"All other non-urgent appointments were rescheduled during this period," she added.

A colposcopy can confirm whether cells in the cervix are abnormal and determine whether you need treatment to remove them.

However, CervicalCheck, BreastCheck, BowelScreen and Diabetic RetinaScreen screening programmes remain suspended nationally due to coronavirus risks.

A spokeswoman said the HSE is preparing comprehensive plans for restarting the screening services in a safe way.

It will ensure all who have missed out on screening can avail of a test on a phased basis over a period of months.

The restarting of screening will be based on HSE and Department of Health guidance on Covid-19.

These plans include an analysis of the operation of treatment pathways and use of personal protective equipment (PPE)and clear infection control guidelines.