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Coronavirus outbreak: Northern Ireland holidaymakers return from Spain after being quarantined for two weeks

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A man wears a face mask at Trafalgar Square in London

A man wears a face mask at Trafalgar Square in London

PA

Coronavirus graphic

Coronavirus graphic

The Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann

The Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann

PA

A man wears a face mask at Trafalgar Square in London

Holidaymakers who had been held in quarantine in a hotel in Tenerife finally arrived back in Northern Ireland last night.

They were among dozens of Britons who had been confined to the Costa Adeje Palace hotel and are now self-isolating for 14 days.

Guests at the quarantined hotel were flown back to the UK after testing negative for coronavirus, Jet2holidays has confirmed.

Holidaymakers at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace had previously been told they would have to remain in quarantine until March 10, after at least four tourists were diagnosed with Covid-19.

But travel operator Jet2holidays said yesterday that its customers at the hotel could return to the UK.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has said updates on coronavirus in Northern Ireland are to be stepped up following the first confirmed case of the virus in the region. In a statement to the Assembly, he said 150 tests have been carried out so far, with one positive result.

The number of cases across the island of Ireland is two, after the Republic's first confirmed case emerged over the weekend.

Both patients are believed to have contracted the disease after travelling to northern Italy, where there have been 34 deaths due to coronavirus.

The Northern Ireland patient is a female healthcare worker from Belfast, who had flown home from Italy via Dublin.

Robin Swann confirmed that all those who were in contact with the woman have been contacted by health officials and been given "appropriate advice".

Mr Swann emphasised that those who travelled between Dublin and Belfast should not be concerned.

The Public Health Agency has been publishing the number of coronavirus tests carried out on a weekly basis since the outbreak emerged; this will now be increased to twice weekly.

Mr Swann said the case in the Republic relates to an affected area of Italy, but is not linked to a school ski trip to the region and authorities do not believe there are any "wider implications for children or schools".

"Whilst the situation is no doubt serious, and whilst it is far from certain that it will happen, detailed plans are in place in case of the virus becoming a pandemic. Even with the recent case I would stress that we are very much still in the containment phase," he said.

A Regional Virology Lab has been set up in Belfast to test for coronavirus and planning across the civil service has been stepped up to assess readiness across all sectors of government.

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, Health Minister Robin Swann and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride have participated in an emergency Cobra meeting. It follows a weekend conference call with the Taoiseach and Irish Health Minister Simon Harris.

Mrs Foster described the meeting as useful. She added: "I am reassured that the procedures and practices that we have in place across the UK are robust and that the system is prepared for a range of scenarios."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "It is vital that we work together to prevent the spread of the virus, including close cooperation north-south to tackle the issue. We will continue our engagement with Ministers and health professionals in all jurisdictions on this basis."

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: "We have been planning for the first case in Northern Ireland and we have robust infection control measures in place which have enabled us to respond immediately. The risk to individuals in Northern Ireland has not changed at this stage."

Four new UK cases - among people from Hertfordshire, south Devon and Kent - were announced yesterday. All had travelled recently to Italy, which has the biggest outbreak in Europe.

Extra powers for the Government to help control the virus are expected to go through Parliament by the end of the month. They may include asking retired doctors and nurses to return to the NHS, urging people to work from home, closing schools, increasing class sizes and cancelling large public events.

Belfast Telegraph