Coronavirus: Irish hospital bans fathers and partners from births
Expectant fathers and partners of pregnant women have been banned from attending births at an Irish hospital because of coronavirus fears.
Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, introduced the rule as part of visitor restrictions.
The hospital said the ban was being imposed to protect mothers; newborn babies; its staff and other patients.
It said it "understands and apologises for any distress caused to both parents and birthing partners".
Many Irish hospitals have introduced strict limitations to visits in all types of wards in a bid to protect patients from exposure to the virus.
Some general hospitals are limiting visits only to patients who are critically or terminally ill.
BBC News NI asked the Health Service Executive (HSE), which runs Ireland's public health services, how many hospitals were banning expectant parents from labour wards.
Its spokesperson said: "Most hospitals are reporting they are only permitting a nominated partner/companion into labour ward. However, specific arrangements vary across hospitals."
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin is allowing one visitor per patient and a nominated "birth partner/support person" is permitted to accompany pregnant women in a delivery ward.
The Coombe Women's and Infants University Hospital in Dublin will only allow visits by nominated partners of pregnant women and parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
The Midlands Regional Hospital said "exceptions will be made in outstanding circumstances" to its ban on parents attending births.
"We hope that our visiting restrictions can be lifted as soon as possible," it added.
"We appreciate all the support and understanding the public have given the hospital during this very difficult time."