WHISTON Hospital will set up "priority assessment pods" for people with suspected coronavirus.

The pods, designed to keep people suspected of having the virus away from other patients, are being installed at acute hospitals across the UK.

Patients who think they have symptoms will be directed to a pod away from A&E, from where they can call specialist NHS 111 teams on a dedicated phone.

It is understood the “NHS 111 pods” will be in place at Whiston within the next week.

The idea is to keep people isolated and away from other patients until an assessment is made.

The pods will only need to be decontaminated if a patient shows symptoms of the virus.

No cases of the virus have been confirmed in the Merseyside or Lancashire areas so far.

However, a letter to hospital chiefs from Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus, said the pod plans were needed to avoid a "surge in emergency departments due to coronavirus".

The letter warns that emergency departments must prepare for a bigger influx of patients.

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An NHS spokesperson said: “Anyone returning from Hubei province in the last 14 days should stay indoors, avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 whether or not they are showing symptoms.

“Anyone with a cough, fever, or shortness of breath who attends hospital and has recently returned from one of the specified countries, will be advised to follow signs to NHS 111 pods and call for advice, so they stay isolated from other patients and avoid causing unnecessary pressure in A&E.”

St Helens Star: A poster showing the symptoms of coronavirus

Anyone who has travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days is being asked to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people.

They are also being asked to call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.

This advice applies to travellers who have returned to the UK from the following areas: China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Macau