Irish Cabinet ends brief Covid-19 self-isolation after minister tests negative for coronavirus

DUBLIN (AFP) - All members of the Irish Cabinet ended a brief period of self-isolation on Tuesday evening (Sept 15), just hours after a coronavirus scare prompted by the health minister displaying symptoms of infection.

Ireland's lower house of parliament was suspended and Cabinet ministers told to restrict their movements on Tuesday evening after it emerged that health minister Stephen Donnelly was displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and seeking a test.

But around four hours later, the result came back negative, a department of health spokesman told AFP.

"All ministers and all TDs (lawmakers) will be functioning and working as normal tomorrow," deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar told RTE.

Earlier in the day, prime minister Micheal Martin told the state broadcaster the steps had been taken in "an abundance of caution" after Donnelly briefed the entire Cabinet on new government coronavirus measures on Monday evening.

Earlier on Tuesday, Donnelly also appeared at a press conference alongside Martin and Varadkar announcing the fresh restrictions for the Dublin region.

The Republic's lower house of parliament was forced into suspension as news of the Cabinet's self-isolation unfolded.

Chairman Sean O Fearghail told lawmakers that "the possibility of proceeding with business does not arise" with the Cabinet in isolation.

However, Martin was able to reconvene parliament shortly after by deploying junior ministers of state to represent the government in the chamber.

There have been 1,787 deaths from the coronavirus in Ireland, according to the latest health ministry figures.

Daily deaths peaked in mid-April, but Ireland is currently battling a surge in new cases, prompting the introduction of fresh restrictions for the capital.

Dublin residents were asked on Tuesday to limit gatherings to no more than six from two different households and to avoid travel outside the region.

Whilst pubs in the rest of the nation are to reopen after a six-month closure next Monday, those in Dublin are to remain closed.