Coronavirus has yet to reach Ireland, but Irish government sources assure the public they are prepared

Three Irish citizens are among those being quarantined at a British hospital after being evacuated from Wuhan, China aboard a flight chartered by the British government amid the fatal coronavirus outbreak.

RTE reports that a plane carrying three Irish citizens, as well as 107 other passengers, landed at the Royal Airforce Base in Brize Norton on Friday, January 31. The passengers are being transported to a hospital in Liverpool where they will be quarantined for two weeks as a precaution.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr. Jenny Harries told BBC: "Everybody who has got on the plane is a well passenger.

"If any of those passengers do show symptoms there are set procedures to isolate them."

Co Kildare native Ben Kavanagh is among those who were evacuated from Wuhan after being on lockdown. He has documented his experience on his personal Instagram, as well as in a video series for the UK-based Channel 4 News.

“None of this feels real,” said  Kavanagh, who appeared rather calm, cool, and collected on the evacuation flight:

The evacuation flight arrived in the UK the day after the World Health Organization officially declared a global health emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Following a meeting on Thursday, the WHO said: “It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO.”

BBC reports that cases of the virus have reached nearly 10,000 in China - and more than 100 cases have been reported in 22 other countries.

Ireland and coronavirus

Ireland’s HSE says: “Currently, there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Ireland. If there is a case here, health professionals will try to contact anyone who has been in contact with the infected person. If you are not contacted, you are extremely unlikely to catch coronavirus. There is no evidence that you can get coronavirus from packages that have come from China or elsewhere."

The Department of Health said: “Ireland will continue to monitor the situation and to participate in the international assessment of response to this novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) through the European Centre for disease control and the WHO.

“Ireland is well-positioned to detect and respond to a case of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that might arise here. As yet there have been no confirmed cases in Ireland.”

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WHO: | @HSELive | @dfatirl | @WHO

— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 31, 2020

Ireland’s Department of Justice said in a statement on Friday that they are assessing the visa status of Chinese nationals currently in Ireland: “The Department of Justice & Equality 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.

“The Department is liaising closely with the HSE [Ireland’s Health Service Executive] and monitoring the ever-evolving situation and will, in relation to both visas and immigration permissions, adopt a pragmatic approach in relation to persons whose permissions are coming to an end.”

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is currently advising against all “non-essential” travel to China.

The Irish Times reports that a DAA spokesman said that the HSE’s health protection surveillance center (HPSC) is the State’s specialist agency for surveillance of communicable diseases. 

“Given that there are no flights to Irish airports from Wuhan, which is at the center of the outbreak, in accordance with current World Health Organisation guidance, entry screening is not recommended at Irish airports at present.”