An Irishman who has no job and is desperate to leave coronavirus-hit China has appealed to the Government not to abandon him
Brian Queenan (24), from Castlebar, is stranded in Beijing unless an emergency travel permit is granted to his Chinese girlfriend to allow her to return to Ireland with him.
He is worried because his work visa expires in two weeks' time and his work as a teacher has dried up because of the shutdown caused by the virus outbreak.
"My partner Lin, who's a 21-year-old student, is Chinese," the Mayo man said. "Her family are confined to her hometown in Jiangxi in the far south of China.
"The roads into the village have been destroyed and she has no way to join them.
"Without me, she will have no home to stay in. I need to get her an emergency visa so she can come with me to Ireland until the crisis has stabilised.
"Many Irish citizens with partners or wives and children in China face this problem.
"We hope we can get the necessary help and that the Irish Government and the Irish embassy will not abandon us."
Mr Queenan is among a number of Irish people who remained in China because they had a Chinese partner not allowed leave the country.
They now face weeks of confinement in their homes and food shortages that have led to people "fighting over a carrot".
Mr Queenan said he is dissatisfied with what he calls the inadequate response so far got from the Irish embassy.
"I called about my situation, but they seem to rarely pick up the phone," he said. "I eventually go through and they told me to write my concerns in an email.
"They replied back saying visa centres in Beijing are closed and my girlfriend could not apply for a normal visa.
"They said they would let me know when they are open again. I felt totally ignored."
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish embassy and consulates "are keeping our citizens in China appraised of the current situation".
It emerged yesterday that 15 people have been tested in Ireland for the coronavirus.
The patients, whose results were negative, showed symptoms of the virus which has so far infected more than 28,000 people globally and killed more than 580.
The HSE said isolation rooms that can be used for suspected patients have been identified in all hospitals.
It will distribute top-to-toe protective wear to GPs this week for their safety in dealing with a suspected case.