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Coronavirus fears increase as Belfast patient kept in isolation

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A patient with suspected coronavirus in Hong Kong

A patient with suspected coronavirus in Hong Kong

REUTERS

A patient with suspected coronavirus in Hong Kong

A Chinese patient in the North remained in isolation last night as test results were awaited to find out whether he had the killer coronavirus.

The suspected case arose as five other patients were being tested for the virus in Scotland, heightening fears it has spread to Europe.

The patient, who was being monitored at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, showed symptoms which could be linked to the virus.

It originated in Wuhan in China and has infected more than 600 people, killing 18.

The man is believed to have travelled to the North from Wuhan at the weekend and had fever and other flu-like symptoms.

It takes around 24 hours for a test to confirm or rule out the virus. Safety measures were stepped up here yesterday as hospitals, GPs and the ambulance service were issued with guidelines on how to care for a patient suspected of having the virus and manage the risk to others, including health staff.

The guide, from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), highlighted the need to isolate the patient, with staff taking standard precautions including the wearing of a long-sleeved gown, a face shield or goggles.

Risk

The HSE wrote to the Dublin Airport Authority last Friday detailing what was required in the event of a suspected case and the need to keep informed about the evolving health risk.

Further phone contact with airport authorities has also been made this week.

A HSE spokesman said that as part of the State's national emergency planning process there were plans already in place which have been tested over the years.

Dr John Cuddihy, of the HPSC, said the risk to Ireland remained low and it helped that there were no direct flights here from China.

A number of suspected cases have already presented to hospitals here, including the Mater, but none had to be tested.

The virus has spread to the US, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan.

Coronavirus fears may have an effect on the number of patients in hospitals, 477 of whom were on trolleys across the country yesterday. Although winter flu is waning there are worries about the potential impact overcrowding may have if a case of the virus emerges.

HSE officials said yesterday that patients at potential risk would be asked about recent travel to China and isolated if there is a chance they might be infected.

Risk

Meanwhile, some Chinese streets are empty as residents avoid going outside in fear of contracting the virus in the lead up to the Chinese New Year.

Authorities there have restricted travel in several cities after announcing that 18 people have died after contracting coronavirus.

According to Dublin-born Cork resident Eoin Murphy (51), who travelled to Shanghai last week and is due to return to Ireland tomorrow, the streets are empty. He lived there from 2007 to 2012.