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Coronavirus: Swann says 150 tested in Northern Ireland as flight from Tenerife due in Belfast

Flight carrying passengers from Spanish quarantined hotel

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150 tests for the virus have been carried out in Northern Ireland (Jane Barlow/PA)

150 tests for the virus have been carried out in Northern Ireland (Jane Barlow/PA)

150 tests for the virus have been carried out in Northern Ireland (Jane Barlow/PA)

Updates on coronavirus in Northern Ireland are to be stepped up following the first confirmed case of the virus in the region.

Health Minister Robin Swann, in a statement to the Assembly on Monday, said 150 tests have been carried out so far, with one positive result.

It comes as a flight carrying passengers who were quarantined in a Tenerife hotel is due to land in Belfast.

The number of cases across the island of Ireland is two, following the Republic's first confirmed case emerging 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 patient from Northern Ireland is a female healthcare worker from Belfast, who had flown home from Italy via Dublin.

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 Robin Swann

Robin Swann confirmed all those who were in contact with the woman have been contacted by health officials and they have 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 the 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.

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Health Minister Robin Swann has urged calm

Health Minister Robin Swann has urged calm

PA

Health Minister Robin Swann has urged calm

"We have been planning for the first positive case in Northern Ireland and we have robust infection control measures in place which have enabled us to respond immediately to this type of situation. Our health service is used to managing infections and we are well prepared to deal with this."

Mr Swann stressed that the risk to individuals in Northern Ireland remains moderate and said a UK-wide Coronavirus Action Plan is to be published on Tuesday.

"My advice to the public remains the same. To those members of the public who have symptoms and are concerned they may have Covid-19 I would urge them not to turn up at GP clinics or hospital emergency departments. They should instead contact their GP or GP out of hours. Advice will then be given on next steps, including testing if required," he said.

"I would like to remind members and the public that everyone can play their part. I would encourage everyone to take sensible precautions of washing their hands regularly and to especially heed the advice recommend for similar illnesses such as cold and flu – catch it, bin it and kill it.

"Northern Ireland now has full access to the NHS 111 helpline on coronavirus. This is available 24/7 to provide advice."

The people of Northern Ireland are a resilient people. I believe they are well used to keeping calm during challenging circumstances Robin Swann

The Coronavirus Action Plan will set out what is known about the virus, what preparations are in place to deal with the outbreak, what actions have been taken so far in response to the virus, and what UK authorities are planning to do next.

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.

Addressing the public, Mr Swann said: "It is vital that we keep taking a balanced, proportionate approach at all times – with our actions based on the best scientific advice.

"Complacency is our enemy – but so too are panic and hysteria...

"The people of Northern Ireland are a resilient people. I believe they are well used to keeping calm during challenging circumstances."

Meanwhile, a flight carrying passengers from a hotel in Spain which has been quarantined due to coronavirus is set to land in Belfast on Monday evening.

British tourists were allowed to leave the Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife after testing negative for the virus.

The Jet2 flight, understood to be carrying a number of passengers from Northern Ireland, is expected to land in Manchester and then on to Belfast.

"The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Public Health England will be advising customers about the steps they need to follow once back in the UK," a Jet2 spokesperson said.

"As we have made explicitly clear, our number one priority is the health and safety of our customers, our colleagues, and the general public.

"We have been working closely with the FCO, Public Health England and the hotel, to find a solution which ensured the best outcome for our customers in the hotel, whilst making sure we fulfilled those responsibilities.

"We have been in contact with our customers throughout, and we would like to sincerely thank them for their patience and understanding."

Belfast Telegraph