Blackpool civil servant who is 'struggling to breathe and has cough' after tour of Vietnam fears he may have the Covid-19 coronavirus

A civil servant poorly after touring Vietnam fears he has the coronavirus Covid-19.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 1:30 pm
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 4:58 pm

Neil Callaghan, 50, said he is struggling to breathe and has a cough after coming home from a month-long holiday in the Asian country, where 10,000 people have been quarantined because of the killer bug.

And after being told to self-isolate by NHS medics, he fears his loved ones may also have the virus, which started in China and has killed more than 1,600 people – infecting many more.

There have been nine confirmed cases in the UK, though none on the Fylde coast – and none of them deadly.

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Neil Callaghan, 50, from Blackpool, fears he may have caught the coronavirus after touring Vietnam for a month (Picture: Neil Callaghan)

Neil, who lives near Stanley Park in Blackpool and has suffered a heart attack in the past, said: “I started with a cough and shortness of breath at the start of the week, soon after getting back from Vietnam,” where he travelled by plane, bus, and taxi to sight-see cities like Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh in the south, as well as several other places.

He said he called the 111 NHS helpline and was told to speak to his GP, who told Neil to self-isolate at home. But, because he lives with family, he didn’t think he could isolate himself and decided to attend the coronavirus pod at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, he said.

He described “the most emotional and stressful experience ever” as he waited outside the pod to be seen, before being given the same advice – to self-isolate at home.

He was also given a swab test, and is now waiting for the results.

An ambulance parked outside the Vic's coronavirus isolation pod earlier this week

Like every other NHS hospital in England, the Vic set up the isolation pod – near to the clock-tower outside A&E – on the orders of the Government, which has called Covid-19 a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

Patients should only attend if they are referred or unable to call 111 for advice, while those displaying the flu-like symptoms of the coronavirus have been warned not to enter the Vic through signs posted near its entrances. Anyone diagnosed with the virus would be moved to one of several specialist units around the UK.

Those registered at Fylde coast GP practices have been warned not to book an appointment if they have Covid-19 symptoms and have been to one of several Asian countries, though Vietnam was not one of those listed.

An NHS spokesman 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.”