The Chinese Irish community has set up an online chat group to offer support to families and individuals who are choosing to place themselves in voluntary quarantine after visits home to China.

At least 97 people have isolated themselves as a purely precautionary measure.

Today Lina Song was reunited with her little son, Noah, after weeks of separation due to voluntary quarantine. 

Noah had travelled to China with his father Jingjun Lu in late January. His grandmother had suffered a stroke and the family feared the worst. They wanted her to meet her grandchild before it might be too late. His mother Lina stayed in Ireland.

When they returned two weeks ago the family made the difficult decision to place Jingjun Lu and Noah in quarantine for two weeks.

They had not been to the area of China affected by the coronavirus and had no symptoms of the virus. The decision to self quarantine was a precautionary measure. 

For two weeks Lina could only watch her son through the glass of the family's patio door. She had not travelled to China and had moved out of the family home with her other 7-year-old son, to allow their home to be used for quarantine. 

Little Noah celebrated his first birthday with a cake, in the arms of his aunt and with his father, while his mother and his brother and cousins sang happy birthday to him through the closed patio door. 

Through tears Lina told RTÉ News how difficult it was to be separated from her son.

"It was hard. I was so worried about my baby. I wanted to hold him, to hug him", she says "but I could only see him through the window. But now I'm happy because I'm holding him now".

Explaining why she made the difficult decision to quarantine her son Lina said "we all have family in this world, we are all humans. We want to respect people. I want my neighbours to be safe and my other son's classmates to be healthy and safe. We want to be really careful and just make sure."

Noah's family are among an estimated at least 100 Chinese origin people living here who have chosen to place themselves in voluntary quarantine after returning from China in recent weeks.

They are being supported by members of the Chinese community who are leaving food on the doorsteps of families and offering emotional and practical support through an online chatroom created for this purpose.

The chatroom was set up by Chinese Irish woman Dannie Fan. It now has more than 237 members from across the country.

Today 97 people on the group confirmed to Dannie that they have entered into voluntary quarantine after returning from China.

Dannie believes that there are more, who have not made contact with the group because they don't need support.

She has told RTÉ News that none of the people doing this have experienced any symptoms of the virus.

They are self-isolating just as a precaution.

A report published earlier this month indicated that the virus could be passed on by people who might display no symptoms. The report received widespread publicity. However these findings were later found to be flawed, and the report was withdrawn.

There is currently no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by a person who is not displaying symptoms.

No cases of the coronavirus have been identified in Ireland.

"We don't have any case in Ireland but we don't want to take any risk. Ireland is our home and we want to protect Ireland", says Dannie.

Messages left on the communal chat group show photos of bags of food that members of the Chinese community have left on the doorsteps of others.

The photos show fresh vegetables, meat, as well as cooked meals.

"On the chatgroup we all state the area of the country we live in and whoever needs help in your area they will see that and then talk to you privately", she says.

"Myself I dropped food to the doorsteps of two friends. My friend loves doughnuts so I brought her fresh vegetables and meat, and also doughnuts".

"We want to let people who are doing voluntary quarantine know that they are not alone, that they have our support, because we learned that so much from Irish people," she says.

"Irish people have the most warm beautiful hearts and we have learned from that and we want to protect Irish families and our Irish friends and neighbours".

Dannie says doing quarantine is proving especially difficult for families with children.

"It is hard, especially for a family that has young kids", she says, "but the parents explain that this is a responsibility, to be a good citizen, and I believe that is a great lesson for the kids to learn".

"The families are sharing their feelings online and we are giving them emotional support. We encourage them and we understand them".

Dannie says some of the Chinese supermarkets are donating fresh vegetables and meat to the families who have isolated themselves in this way.

"The families won’t go to the shop so whoever is the friend, they go to the shop and collect the donation and drop it to the family".

"We have the same goal. All the Chinese community have the same goal. Ireland is our home and we want to protect our home", she says.

Dannie stresses that nobody within the Chinese community has displayed any symptoms of the virus.

"We tell people to report to the HSE when they return from China, and if there is any symptom not to go to a GP or a hospital but to phone instead. But we are not aware of a single case of any Chinese person returning with any symptoms".

Lina is working to renew her bond with her son, Noah. He is finding it difficult to readjust but the family is taking things slowly. The family has good news from China too - Noah's grandmother, who suffered the stroke, is recovering well.