The Health Service Executive has said that there have been no suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases in Ireland.

It said that the ability of the virus to be transmitted is limited and involves close contact.

Dr John Cuddihy, Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said that given the situation here now, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will catch it here from among the population.

He said that if there is a case in Ireland in the future, health professionals will contact anyone who has been in close contact with the infected person to advise them.

He also said that influenza is still circulating and that the HSE expects this flu season to be an average one running from late November to the end of January.

The HSE has said that if there are people doctors are concerned about, regarding the coronavirus, they would be put into isolation. This would equally apply to influenza cases.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said testing for the virus can be done in Ireland from Monday with an eight to 12-hour turnaround time.

In a video diary tweeted by Channel 4 News, Ben Kavanagh an Irish citizen who has been living in Wuhan in China and is originally from Co Kildare.

"I'm not British so I didn't think I'd be on the British flight and as the British flight was delayed, there was a seat for me...What I heard is that it's going to fly into an RAF base and then after that there'll be quarantine for two weeks… so that's what I would want if I was to be evacuated.

"I'd want to make sure me and all the other passengers aren't infected and can't infect anyone else in the public."

Mr Kavanagh said he is supported by the Irish Government.

"I've heard from the Irish embassy in Beijing a couple of times, I've been onto a few people from the embassy.

"They've been excellent. They were liasing with the British government so obviously myself and I think one other Irish person will get on the British evacuation flight."

He spoke to RTÉ News before boarding the British flight this Thursday evening. He understands he will be quarantined in England before he is able to come to Ireland.

Currently testing is done in England with a 48-hour turnaround time. Only people with the symptoms and travel profile would be tested.


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Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said his officials were in talks with French authorities to secure seats on a French plane for a small number of Irish citizens who have indicated that they wish to be evacuated from Wuhan in China.

Countries around the world are evacuating their citizens as fears of the spread of the coronavirus rise.

The disease has now killed more than 170 people in China, infected more than 6,000 people and spread to at least 16 countries.

Speaking in Waterford, Mr Coveney said that the plane would leave France tomorrow.

He indicated that the Irish citizens would be flown to France, where they would likely be quarantined for a fortnight, but he said this had not yet been decided.

Mr Coveney stressed there was nothing to suggest that any Irish citizens had been infected with the virus.

He said Department of Foreign Affairs officials had "reached out" to Irish citizens in the affected region in China through the Irish embassy in Beijing.

The Tánaiste said he was confident that Irish officials can support any Irish citizens anywhere in China, but particularly in Wuhan, and can find a way to help them to leave China, if they wish.

He said that process was being undertaken with other EU countries who also have citizens who wish to leave China and were making their own arrangements to do so.

France, he said, had been mentioned because a plane is leaving France for China tomorrow and he was confident of securing seats on that plane for a number of Irish citizens, "in the low single figures", who had asked for help and support to leave.

Mr Coveney said it was necessary to seek support from other EU countries because there were no scheduled flights between Ireland and the areas affected.

He said the evacuation efforts were being coordinated at an EU level.

Mr Coveney said when people travel from China to the EU they would have to ensure they go through "appropriate health measures" to ensure they are not carrying infection.

He said nothing had been finalised or confirmed as yet in relation to quarantine arrangements.

Some 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.

Around 210 American citizens arrived at a military base in California from China yesterday where they were met by emergency vehicles with personnel in white biological hazard suits.

They will be monitored for symptoms and sent to local hospitals if they are found to be ill, the Pentagon said.

More than 200 Japanese nationals were also brought home, but only a handful of them were hospitalised for tests after they reported feeling unwell or showed flu-like symptoms.

Additional reporting: Paschal Sheehy