A Chinese patient in Northern Ireland remained in isolation last night as tests are awaited to find out if he has the killer coronavirus.
The suspected case came as five other patients were being tested for the virus in Scotland, heightening fears it has already spread to Europe.
The patient who was being monitored at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast showed symptoms that could be linked to the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has infected more than 830 people, killing 18.
The man is believed to have travelled to Northern Ireland from Wuhan at the weekend and had fever and other flu-like symptoms.
It takes around 24 hours for a test to confirm or rule out the virus.
It comes as safety measures were stepped up in the Republic yesterday as hospitals, GPs and the ambulance service were issued with guidelines on how to care for a patient suspected of having the virus and how to manage the risk to others, including health staff.
The guide from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) highlights the need to isolate the patient, with staff taking standard precautions including the wearing of a long-sleeved gown, a face shield or goggles.
The HSE wrote to Dublin Airport Authority last Friday detailing what was required in infection control in the event of a suspected case and the need to stay informed about the evolving health risk.
Further phone contact with airport authorities has also been made this week.
A HSE spokesman said that as part of the State's National Emergency planning process there were plans in place already which have been tested over the years.
Dr John Cuddihy, of the HPSC, said the risk to Ireland was low and it helped that there were no direct flights here from Wuhan.
A number of suspected cases have already presented to hospitals here including the Mater Hospital but none of them had to be tested so far.
The virus has spread to the US, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan.
There were 477 patients on trolleys across the country yesterday and although the winter flu is waning there are fears about the potential impact overcrowding may have if a case of the coronavirus emerges.
HSE officials said yesterday patients at potential risk would be asked about recent travel to China and isolated if there is a chance they might be infected.
The alert is raised if a patient who is showing respiratory symptoms had been in Wuhan in the 14 days before the onset of illness.
The deaths from the virus have so far been in older patients who have had underlying illnesses.
In the past week, the number of patients over 75 attending A&E departments has risen.
Dr Sam McConkey, a Dublin specialist in infectious diseases, said much the same controls were implemented in hospital for a suspected case of the coronavirus as there would be fir the flu.
"The same precautions are in place," he said.
His fear was that the new virus will mutate and it would affect organs such as the liver and the bowels.
He said the public should be reassured that when a case of Sars, another coronavirus, was detected here some years ago it was contained and did not spread.
Asked about the likelihood of a case here, he said there would definitely be one in Europe at some stage.
The areas most at risk are countries that have direct flights from Wuhan.
"It is early days but people are getting mobilised here, and sit up and notice," he added.
The HPSC said three airports in the EU had direct flight connections to Wuhan and there were indirect flight connections to other EU hubs.
Paris has six weekly flights, London has three flights a week and Rome has a similar number.
The HPSC said there was currently a moderate likelihood of infection for European travellers visiting Wuhan.
The Chinese New Year celebrations starting today will increase travel to and from China, increasing the chances of the virus being spread further.
The death toll in China's coronavirus outbreak has risen to 25 with 830 cases confirmed, the country's National Health Commission said on Friday.
The update also confirmed the first death outside the central province of Hubei, where the virus is thought to have originated.
The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died after showing symptoms on his return from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives.
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei and has been the epicentre of the outbreak, first detected last month.
The revised death toll came a day after Chinese authorities moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 25 million people in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus, which has spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.