The travel plans of thousands of Irish visitors to China have been thrown into chaos following the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 6,000 people and caused 130 deaths.
Around 14,000 people travel from Ireland to mainland China every year but the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a warning yesterday requesting the avoidance of any non-essential journeys to the country as a safeguard against the spread of the highly infectious pneumonia-like infection.
Several airlines, including British Airways, have also suspended all flights to mainland China with "immediate effect".
The airline halted all bookings on its website for direct flights from London to Beijing and Shanghai until the end of February.
Many Irish people with holiday bookings are expected to seek refunds, which they are entitled to according to the official advisory on travel.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is recommending that customers avoid travelling to the Hubei province of China, and reconsider travelling to the rest of China unless it is absolutely essential.
ITAA president John Spollen said those travelling should be aware that travel restrictions are in place across all major cities, while the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suspended all tour group companies' activities to prevent the further spread of the virus, which may cause disruptions to travel plans.
"Irish travellers in affected areas should stay indoors where possible and avoid large gatherings," he said.
Meanwhile, there continues to be confusion about the airlifting of a number of Irish citizens who are stranded in Wuhan at the centre of the outbreak.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday a number of the estimated eight Irish who live there wish to leave and can avail of transport on a European Commission repatriation flight later this week.
However, Ireland was not among the countries listed as requesting the transport at a European Commission conference on the transport plan yesterday and the Department of Foreign Affairs said it could not comment.
Most of the Irish people in Wuhan are expected to stay.
The HSE was unable to say if those who return from Wuhan will have to agree to be quarantined in the same manner as those returning to the UK. It has been reported UK-based returnees will spend around two weeks in supported isolation.
People who want to be transported back on one of the EU flights will undergo medical assessment and will not be allowed to travel if they are showing signs of the virus.