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Special coronavirus pods set up at Northern Ireland hospitals to fight disease

Special treatment units go live to control panic over outbreak

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Pods have been set up to test people who think they have the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Royal Hospital near the entrance of the A&E department.

Pods have been set up to test people who think they have the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Royal Hospital near the entrance of the A&E department.

Pods have been set up to test people who think they have the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Royal Hospital near the entrance of the A&E department.

Special coronavirus pods are now in action in Northern Ireland after our first confirmed case of the disease.

Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital activated its 'Covid-19 Priority Assessment Pods' in the last 48 hours.

It's the next step up from the drive-through testing service which went live at the site yesterday.

Antrim Area Hospital will take delivery of its pod from England on Tuesday, which will then be deep-cleaned before being commissioned on Wednesday.

It also has a drive-through assessment service which came in to operation on Friday.

A spokesperson for the South Eastern Health Trust confirmed it has ordered a pod which will be located at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

At the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Belfast, a trio of pods have been placed near the entrance to the accident and emergency department. Sunday Life contacted both the Western and Southern Health Trusts to see if they have ordered pods but received no response.

The 12mx3m portable buildings, which resemble Portakabins, contain assessment areas, toilets and a waiting area.

They are being brought in to reduce the risk of infection in the main hospital area and to prevent a panic spreading in any emergency department should a person arrive with the virus symptoms.

So far there is only one confirmed case of the disease here in Northern Ireland with 93 suspected cases tested and only that one found to be positive.

The Public Health Agency announced yesterday that laboratory tests had confirmed that a female healthcare worker from Belfast, who had initially tested positive at the RVH, is definitely suffering from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The woman and a child had travelled home on an Aer Lingus flight via Dublin from northern Italy. It is thought she then boarded an Enterprise train to Belfast.

Last night in the Republic the first case of the virus there was confirmed. A male in the eastern part of the island is believed to have contracted it travelling in an affected area of northern Italy.

Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday a major property conference in France due to be attended by Belfast and other councils is to be postponed.

It comes as the French government announced a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

The Six Nations game between Ireland and France at the Stade de France in Paris on March 14 is now also likely to be called off. The move has caused the cancellation of the Paris half marathon which was due to take place today.

The MIPIM property market was due to open in two weeks' time in the French Riviera city of Cannes with more than 100 delegates from Northern Ireland due to attend.

But the organisers, Reed MIDEM, have now pushed it back to the beginning of June over concerns for client and staff health.

"The wellbeing of our clients and staff is our priority. Given the evolving context, the best course of action is to postpone MIPIM to June," said Reed MIDEM chief executive Paul Zilk.

Alongside Belfast City Council, delegates from Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid and East Antrim and Newry, Mourne and Down were expected to attend.

Representatives from Invest NI, Queen's University, Belfast Harbour and others were also due to be present.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his health minister Simon Harris held a conference call with First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann.

"We discussed (the) situation on (the) island of Ireland and internationally. We all agreed good cooperation north and south should continue and will stay in close contact," he tweeted.

Another three people in England have tested positive for the disease.

Two of the patients had recently returned from Italy, while the other had come back from Asia.

In Iran the disease claimed the life of Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, a member of the country's parliament.

Mr Dastak, who was elected last week, reportedly suffered from a respiratory and pulmonary disease before his death yesterday.

Global deaths have passed 2,900 and confirmed cases of the virus stand at 85,000.

It was also reported yesterday that up to 70% of the population of Northern Ireland may contract the virus within the next year.

Dr Lindsay Broadbent, a virologist at Queen's University, said that most cases would be mild.

"To be in the same room talking to someone for 15 minutes is the general rule of thumb for transmitting the virus," she told The Irish News. "For every one person infected, they will infect on average about two other people.

"If there is a person sneezing or coughing or talking on their phone quite loudly directly across from someone, that could transmit the virus."

Acting on medical advice, the congregations at both Catholic masses and Church of Ireland services today will be urged to ensure there is minimal physical contact between attendees during the services.

The Catholic sign of peace and the use of holy water fonts will be prohibited for the time being.

Both denominations will now only administer communion directly into the parishioner's hand, rather than their mouth.

Two schools in Northern Ireland have cancelled ski trips to Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak. Last night the number of cases in the country soared to 1,128 with 29 suspected deaths.

Sacred Heart Grammar in Newry and Dunclug College in Ballymena were both due to leave for Folgaria yesterday.

In a message sent to parents, Sacred Heart Grammar said the decision was made following "careful deliberation".

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