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Public shouldn't panic over coronavirus outbreak, but we can all play our part in helping to contain the disease

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Concerns over coronavirus are growing (PA)

Concerns over coronavirus are growing (PA)

Concerns over coronavirus are growing (PA)

As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues to escalate it is clear that the impact of the contagion on the public mind is growing day by day. What initially seemed to be a problem remote from these shores now is rightly accepted as something which will affect our everyday lives as well as potentially our health.

There is evidence of some panic buying of food supplies and even medicines - a trend the government is keen to emphasise is totally unnecessary. This shows how public opinion has swung quickly from believing that coronavirus was being hyped to worrying how they will survive if self isolation becomes widespread.

Certainly there are areas of particular concern such as how to regulate visits to nursing and residential homes which contain vulnerable elderly people who could have other underlying problems.

In Northern Ireland, which has the worst hospital waiting lists in the UK, another concern is that elective procedures may be cancelled, further lengthening the time people who have already waited too long will have to spend before being treated.

The economy is another area of concern. Having managed to convince the rest of the world that Northern Ireland is a place worth visiting, the loss of Flybe which operated 80% of flights at Belfast City Airport and the growing reluctance of people to fly anywhere unless it is essential, is threatening to have a serious effect on tourism and the hospitality industry which is holding a summit next week to discuss the problem.

There has been the expected mixed reaction to a call by the Chief Constable of the PSNI to have legislation allowing police to detain for testing people who are unwilling to self isolate.

That highlights the need for individuals to play their part in containing the disease by following simple hygiene rules. The Westminster government is to spend £46m in tackling coronavirus, including money aimed at developing a vaccine, but each of us can help at no cost.

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