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GPs will get gowns and masks to cut virus risk

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The selfie by Ben Kavanagh onboard his flight from China

The selfie by Ben Kavanagh onboard his flight from China

The selfie by Ben Kavanagh onboard his flight from China

Irish GPs are to be provided with full head-to-toe protective gowns and masks next week after warning the failure of the HSE to provide safety gear left them at risk of the deadly coronavirus.

It follows growing concern about the virus threat here following the detection of the first two cases of the killer infection in Britain.

The HSE confirmed the packs will be sent to GP surgeries after angry doctors' protests and the emergence of the virus in two Chinese tourists staying in an English hotel.

The HSE's official guidance to GPs on caring for a patient suspected of having the deadly virus is to wear a protective gown and goggles.

Challenge

But Dublin doctor Dr Maitiu O Tuathail revealed their protection was ignored by the HSE.

"GPs are responsible for 92pc of all patient activity. We need to be resourced to tackle the challenge."

The World Health Organisation declared the spread of the virus an international public health emergency.

There is particular concern at the human-to-human transmission of the virus which increases the risk. The virus has infected 10,000 people and killed 213.

It has spread to 20 countries outside China.

Two Chinese tourists became the first patients in Britain to test positive for coronavirus during a holiday to York.

Meanwhile, three Irish people who were on a rescue flight which travelled to England from China are spending two weeks' quarantine at NHS staff accommodation in Arrow Park Hospital, on Merseyside.

They include Kildare teacher Ben Kavanagh, who posted a selfie on Instagram showing him on an almost empty aircraft, with a joke saying: "group selfie of me and my friends."

The Irish were among a group of over 100 passengers on the RAF flight which landed in an airbase in Oxfordshire before travelling to Spain with other Europeans.

The passengers had to sign a contract agreeing to isolation before they could board the flight, and they also underwent temperature checks.

The quarantined group will be given free accommodation in fully furnished rooms, food and laundry facilities.

Kitchens are available if people want to cook for themselves.

A team of medical staff, who will wear protective suits, will closely monitor their condition.

If any of them become ill, they can be treated at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, which has a high-level infectious diseases unit.

Meanwhile, Chinese nationals in Ireland who want to stay here and reschedule their return to China are expected to be granted an extension.

The Department of Justice and Equality said it is "currently examining the immigration position of Chinese nationals, currently in Ireland, who require an extension of their permission as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in China."

A statement said that the department is liaising closely with the HSE and monitoring the ever-evolving situation."In relation to both visas and immigration permissions" it will " adopt a pragmatic approach".