During a press briefing from the HSE this afternoon, the HSE's national lead for healthcare-associated infection and antimicrobial resistance, Professor Martin Cormican, answered a number of key questions in relation to the coronavirus.


If someone in my household is a contact and they are advised to stay at home, why am I being advised to go about my normal life?

HSE answer:

If I am a contact, I might have the virus. 

If I am infected with the virus today, the virus has to grow in me for a number of days before I can give the virus to anyone else.

I usually don't shed much of the virus until I have symptoms.

Of 100 contacts of someone with Covid-19, most people are not infected.

Of those who are infected, they will not shed the virus until they start to feel unwell.

If someone has the virus and gives it to someone in their house, that person is not going to shed the virus for a few days after that. 

So therefore, if I am living in the house of a contact but the person who is a contact is well, then the chances that I am taking that virus outside is so low, our advice for you is to continue your life as normal.


Why don't you get all the contacts and test them, and then you would know if they had Covid-19?

HSE Answer:

It doesn't work like that.

The test is based on taking a swab from a person's throat or nose.

The lab then tests the swab for virus genes.

If enough virus genes are on the swab, the test gives a signal.  If there aren't enough virus genes there is no signal given.

If there is no signal given, that doesn't mean there is no virus, it just means there is not enough of the virus for the test to detect.

The test is either positive or not detected, it is not negative.

If I am a contact, and no virus is found today, there is no reassurance that a test tomorrow would not find the virus.

So testing everyone is not a good idea.


If someone in my household is already sick, are they are increased risk?

HSE Answer:

They are no more likely to catch the infection but the consequences if they do, are more serious.  

We can't sugar coat that.

If you have a pre-existing bad lung disease the consequences could be more serious.

But the way you protect yourself if you are vulnerable is the same way you protect everyone else.


Can contacts that are in isolation in the same house go outside?

HSE Answer:

If you have two young people who are home from the same school and they want to go to a field where there is nobody else and play ball, of course they can because they're living in the same house.

So provided they are not playing ball with a bunch of other people they don't increase the risk to anyone.

If the virus comes out of your nose while you're running around on the grass, the chances of the virus surviving on the grass long enough for anyone to catch it are so remote that we don't believe there is something to be concerned about.


Is there a risk for me if I live in the house with someone who is a contact?

HSE Answer:

If I have been in touch with someone who is infected, I am a contact. That means that I may be infected and I may start to shed the virus in the next few days.  

Is there a risk to you? There is. But it is a risk that most of us accept in ordinary living - in living with our family.

That risk doesn't go away, and that is why we ask contacts to limit their social interactions.