Belfast hospital sets up isolation unit in preparation for Covid-19 patients

An isolation unit has been established at a Belfast hospital ahead of an expected first case of Covid-19.

Health chiefs believe an infection is near “inevitable” though Northern Ireland has remained clear so far.

Preparations have been stepped up at the country’s hospitals and GP surgeries.

Those concerned about symptoms who have returned from affected areas overseas like China and Italy are urged to contact their GPs by telephone in the first instance and stay at home.

Face mask
A woman wears a face mask (Victoria Jones/PA)

There are no plans to test those displaying no symptoms.

Dozens of people have been checked for the disease but all results have returned negative, chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said.

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Northern Ireland’s largest, has set aside an isolation ward to treat the first cases.

The authorities are focusing on preventing the disease’s spread and urged the public’s help like practising good hand hygiene.

A vaccine could be months away, Dr McBride said.

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