A Dublin school has written to parents warning them about the coronavirus and children being excluded at playtime because classmates do not understand the disease.
The primary school told parents it is "a diverse community" and "all nationalities are respected" but regretted some children were being excluded by other pupils after they "received misleading information relating to the spread of the virus".
A senior HSE official has warned that "prejudices" and stigmas around the disease may make people with symptoms reluctant to contact doctors. HSE assistant national director Dr Kevin Kelleher said this could make it more difficult to contain any potential outbreak.
Yesterday the rate of increase in new cases of the virus in China rose again after a brief respite, as the death toll rose to 853 on the mainland and countries around the world enforced stricter measures to contain its spread.
Another 5,548 cases were reported, bringing the total to 36,693, although some of those have recovered. Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in France, after staying in the same ski chalet in Les Contamines-Montjoie, near Chamonix, as a person who had been in Singapore.
Health officials here said 15 coronavirus tests were carried out last week. All were negative. However, a Kerry-based family who recently travelled in China are being assessed this weekend as a precautionary measure after one member complained of feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms.
In a letter sent home last Thursday, the principal of a primary school in South Dublin asked parents to reassure children they are safe from the coronavirus.
The letter, seen by the Sunday Independent, advised parents who have recently been in mainland China or may have been in contact with the coronavirus in the past two weeks to contact health officials.
It also offered hygiene advice compiled by the HSE. Parents were asked to inform the school of travel plans to "any affected areas", practise good personal hygiene, "avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness" and monitor their family's health.
"Unfortunately it has come to our attention that some children are being excluded from play-time activities because a small group of children have received misleading information relating to the spread of the virus. Please take some time to reassure your child that they are safe," the letter added.
The principal said the school will monitor the spread of the coronavirus and "will be implementing additional measures if the situation escalates" because "outbreak situations are dynamic".
The HSE's Dr Kevin Kelleher said in many cases the virus was being spread by people who were not originally from China or other affected countries. He said elderly people travelling to Asia during their retirement must be aware over-65s are most susceptible to the coronavirus.
"It certainly seems from China at the moment that it is very susceptible for older people and maybe other people with pre-existing conditions," Dr Kelleher said.