Northern Ireland news

Italian coronavirus outbreak leads to new advice from Public Health Agency on 'self-isolation'

The coronavirus outbreak has led to updated guidance from health officials in Northern Ireland
Seanín Graham

HEALTH officials in Northern Ireland are urging people who have travelled to northern Italy and are experiencing coronavirus symptoms to "self-isolate" and contact their GP by phone.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) yesterday updated its advice following a surge in the number of cases in regions close to Milan and Venice where there is a 'lockdown' of 50,000 residents.

Dr Muhammad Sartaj, a PHA consultant in health protection, said he appreciated public concerns, especially among parents of children who had travelled to Italy at half-term for ski trips.

At least three schools in Northern Ireland yesterday confirmed they had sent pupils home as precautionary measures.

Dr Sartaj said: "We are liaising with Department of Education, Education Authority and schools to advise on the impact of the newly-updated guidelines, and how they apply in each set of circumstances.

"Travellers who have been to 11 specific towns in Italy must self-isolate

"Anyone who has been in northern Italy (not including Pisa, Florence or Rimini) is asked to stay at home for 14 days if they develop cough, fever, or difficulty breathing and seek medical advice."

The guidelines apply to all travellers to areas covered, whether travel has been for a holiday, school trip, business, or other reason.

'Self isolation' is also being advised if you are experiencing symptoms and have in the the past fortnight returned from:

- Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar

- China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Macau

- If you are not registered with a GP in Northern Ireland and have recently returned from affected countries you are being asked not to attend a surgery or hospital without phoning in advance

- In cases of a medical emergency, call 999 and inform the call handler of your recent travel history

There is also guidance for those who have been to the Hubei Province in China, (including Wuhan) in the last 14 days, or Iran, specific lockdown areas in northern Italy, or special care zones of South Korea since 19 February.

They have been asked to return home, contact the special coronavirus helpline on 0300 200 7885 then:

- Stay indoors and avoid contact with others as much as possible for 14 days after you arrive

- Do not go to work, school or public areas

- Avoid visitors in your home

- Do not use public transport or taxis

Health minister Robin Swann yesterday said it was a "fast-moving situation" and that updated guidelines were being issued to doctors.

"It is unlikely at this stage that any school would have to close if they follow the latest guidelines," he added.

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