HSE’s head of public health in the south in self-isolation after visiting family in England

The HSE’s head of public health in the south is self-isolating after he visited England last weekend to say goodbye to his wife and child as they face what could be several months apart.

Dr Augustine Pereira, a key figure in the region’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, is symptom free but said he is following HSE guidance and will spend 14-days working from home.

He said in the interim, a colleague will act as director of public health in the region.

Dr Pereira works in Cork while his wife, an NHS employee, and their eight-year-old son, live in the UK.

As the Covid-19 crisis was escalating here last Friday, Dr Pereira was quoted in a joint statement issued by the HSE, Cork city and county councils and the gardaí urging everyone to play their part in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

That afternoon, he posted the first two of three planned tweets from his own Twitter account highlighting HSE public health guidance.

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His first tweet promoted self-isolation and social distancing. The second tweet, moments later, urged people to connect with each other in innovative ways, and to ensure physical distancing while continuing to socially connect.

The third tweet was posted almost 24-hours later, in which he said three things were important.

“Social distancing, social distancing and social distancing. Thanks to all who area religious about it. It saves lives,” he wrote.

But he has now confirmed that the tweets were posted while he was in England with his family.

In an statement to the Irish Examiner, Dr Pereira said he travelled to the UK due to “an urgent family matter”.

He said the trip “unfortunately overlapped” with the introduction of the new guidance on international travel from the National Public Health Emergency Team and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“The situation around Covid-19 is evolving and changing very quickly, and after my return I am currently restricting my movements for 14 days – sometimes referred to as self-quarantine – as recommended by the HSE guidelines,” he said.

“This means that I am not travelling into work and am following the national guidelines for anyone returning from travel.

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“As a consequence, I am working remotely on projects that lend itself to remote working, away from the Department of Public Health and under self-quarantine.

I remain symptom free which means I do not require a test whilst self-quarantining and am still working as my priority is to serve the people of Cork and Kerry.

As the Irish and British governments impose tight restrictions on travel and movement, Dr Pereira and his family face several months apart.

He said: “My son was particularly upset at the prospect of not knowing when he would see me again but I explained to him about what is going on and why I had to say goodbye for now.

“I am now back in Ireland, and I intend to remain here and devote myself entirely to the HSE’s battle against Covid-19.

May I take this opportunity to say it isn’t easy to self-quarantine whilst remaining symptom free but it’s vitally important to follow the HSE guidance if you have been advised to do so.

“This will help the health service to be able to respond to the demand on its service and it will save lives.

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“Like many other families, my family will keep in touch using phones and technology for the foreseeable future.

“And whilst we are all physically distancing from friends and family, can I also make this plea to all to socially connect in new and innovative ways.”

The HSE guidance on self-isolation is outlined here

    Useful information

  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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