CORONAVIRUS has arrived in Ireland with the first case of the virus confirmed this evening.
An adult has tested positive for the virus after returning home from holiday in northern Italy, Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said.
At a media briefing at the Public Health Authority (PHA) headquarters in Belfast, it was revealed the patient had travelled via Dublin airport to Northern Ireland.
The PHA said it was "working rapidly" to identify anyone the patient came into contact with in a bid to prevent a further spread.
Dr McBride said the patient had showed a "presumptive positive result" for Covid-19 and a second test was being sent to Public Health England laboratories for verification.
He said the individual had contacted a GP and had taken steps to self-isolate. He also confirmed only a small number of people have been in close contact with the person.
He refused to be drawn on whether the person had travelled from the Republic to Northern Ireland via public transport. He would only say the patient was not part of a school trip.
While the individual's gender was not revealed, there were suggestions it may be a woman from south Belfast.
It is also believed a child, understood to be the woman's daughter, is being tested for the virus.
When asked if any others who have been in contact with the confirmed case are being tested, Dr McBride said that process was active.
A special unit has been established at the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast for isolating those suffering from the virus, but health authorities would not confirm where the individual is being treated.
"We have been planning for the first positive case in Northern Ireland and have made clear that it was a question of when not if," said Dr McBride.
"We have robust infection control measures in place which enable us to respond immediately.
"Our health service is used to managing infections and would assure the public that we are prepared."
He added: "We have now seen our first case in Northern Ireland of someone returning from northern Italy and that is not unexpected.
"We have well-trialled and tested methods for identifying people who have been in contact... following up giving them advice and taking appropriate steps to protect the public."
Dr Adrian Mairs from the PHA added: "I would like to reassure the public that the risk to the wider population remains low".
Following news of the first diagnosed case in Ireland - north or south - Stormont health minister Robin Swann spoke to Simon Harris, his counterpart in the Republic.
"Giving the evolving situation this first case of Covid-19 disease was not unexpected," said Mr Harris.