Minister for Health Simon Harris told 2FM listeners this morning to “…remember this is coronavirus, Covid-19. That means there have been 18 other coronaviruses…”
The slip-up came as the Wicklow TD was answering a question about whether a vaccine would be found to end the outbreak of Covid-19.
“But remember this is coronavirus, Covid-19. That means there have been 18 other coronaviruses and I don’t think they have actually successfully found a vaccine for any… For now, I think you would have to presume that a vaccine is about another year away”, Harris said.
The World Health Organization has previously stated that Covid-19 is an acronym: Corona (CO) Virus (VI) Disease (D) and 19 (2019), referring to when the virus first emerged.
Although the error was not pointed out by 2FM Breakfast presenters Doireann and Eoghan, Harris’ remarks did cause a stir on social media afterwards, with many people expressing alarm and others drawing comparisons to Kellyanne Conway’s recent gaffe in her role as an adviser to President Donald Trump.
Trumps adviser got an awful going over by media for making this blunder and that was few weeks ago!!! Will Harris get the same treatment or will FG spin their way outta this one?
— Sean (@ErectedMonk) April 22, 2020
Conway had told Fox News: “This is Covid-19, not Covid-1 folks, and so you would think the people in charge of the World Health Organisation, facts and figures, would be on top of that.”
Minister Harris later apologised for his comments, saying they were down to “cabin fever” or “sleep deprivation.”
“I stupidly talked about there being 18 other coronaviruses which of course there isn’t. I can be an awful ol’ idiot at times”, he said on Twitter.
Editor of Gript John McGuirk also took to Twitter, admitting he had made a similar mistake recently.
I can't slag Harris for this. I made the same mistake last week. Albeit, not on national radio while serving as Minister for Health. https://t.co/LeTKnUBw65
— John McGuirk (@john_mcguirk) April 22, 2020
During his interview on 2FM, Mr. Harris claimed that lifting “the restrictions today” could result in the deaths of thousands of people.
“What I am hoping to see on the 5 May is some tweaking of the restrictions but also a plan as to what the next phase might look like because we have to give people hope and a plan as to how we are going to get out of this but it is going to take a period of time.
“Because let’s be clear if we were to lift the restrictions today thousands and thousands of people would die.”