'Like a ghost town': Kildare teacher living in Chinese city hit with coronavirus

Kildare man Ben Kavanagh, who is working as a teacher in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has told of the precautions people are taking to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

'Like a ghost town': Kildare teacher living in Chinese city hit with coronavirus

Kildare man Ben Kavanagh, who is working as a teacher in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has told of the precautions people are taking to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

“It’s almost like a ghost town,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Kavanagh explained that with the Chinese New Year, he has been on a break from school since last Friday and has not gone outside his apartment for “two to three days.”

He said that he lives near a dual carriageway that is usually very busy, but it is very quiet now.

“You are allowed out, but there are so many rumours and people are worried, it’s better not to.”

The latest news he heard was that the virus is spread through the eyes and people are now wearing eye protection as well as masks.

“I have enough water for a few more days, but I will probably have to head out to the shops for food.”

He had heard that prices for some products, such as celery, have already tripled because of shortages.

Mr Kavanagh said that when he ventures out he will wear a surgical mask over his mouth and nose and swim goggles over his eyes.

The timing of the virus could not be worse, he said as people are travelling to visit their families for the new year celebrations.

While he is not very worried, he did admit that the issue “does play on the mind a bit.”

People are taking the situation very seriously.

“I have no idea what to expect,” he said.

Most of the people who had died from the virus to date were elderly, he said.

When asked if he would prefer to be at home in Kildare listening to election debates or dealing with a killer virus, he said it was ‘50/50”.

The HSE’s director of Public Health Dr John Cuddihy has said that the response to a suspected case of the coronavirus at a Dublin hospital earlier this week demonstrates that the protocols in place are effective.

Following assessment the case was determined not to be the virus and the situation was “de-escalated”, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show.

Dr Cuddihy said that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had determined that the risk of the Corona virus in Europe at present was “low to moderate.”

The ambulance service, hospitals and primary care have protocols in place and the incident this week showed that the system works, he said.

“The key here is the travel history, anyone who has been in Wuhan in the last 14 days” he added.

The symptoms are similar to the flu virus he said, coughing, shortness of breath.

The combination of clinical criteria and epidemiological criteria will be assessed by GPs, the ambulance service and emergency departments.

Procedures have been in place since the ebola and Sars outbreaks, said Dr Cuddihy and the incident in Dublin this week indicated that the protocols work.

Disease expert Prof Hugh Pennington told the same programme that the response to the incident in Dublin had been “the right thing to do”.

“They were extremely well prepared and it shows that the system works very well.”

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