Minister for Health Simon Harris has apologised for claiming that there were ’18 other coronaviruses’ before COVID-19.

The WHO coined the official name COVID-19 to identify the strain of coronavirus causing the current pandemic on February 11, which had previously been known as 2019 novel coronavirus.

As such, ’19’ refers to the year in which the virus was identified, rather than numbering the current disease as the 19th strain of the virus.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Harris appeared on the 2FM Breakfast Show hosted by Doireann Garrihy and Eoghan McDermott, stating: ‘But remember this is coronavirus, COVID-19.

‘That means there have been 18 other coronaviruses and I don’t think they have actually found a vaccine for any.’

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday evening to post a video update on the progress of the pandemic in Ireland, Mr Harris sheepishly acknowledged his mistake, which he attributed to cabin fever and lack of sleep.

Mr Harris said: ‘As you probably heard today, I made an awful boo-boo on morning radio with the brilliant Eoghan McDermott and Doireann Garrihy. I was trying to make the point that there have been lots of viruses in the world so far for which there hasn’t been a vaccine found.

‘In being asked about a vaccine, I was trying to make that point that we can’t just wait for a vaccine, we have to see how we can suppress the virus and live alongside the virus.

‘And don’t ask me how or why, I can only presume it’s a degree of cabin fever after being in this department on a very regular basis for the last while, maybe a bit of sleep deprivation, I stupidly talked about there being 18 other coronaviruses, which of course there isn’t. I can be an awful aul’ idiot at times.

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