ISOLATION pods are on standby at Fairfield General Hospital in Bury in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

Health and council chiefs have detailed their preparations locally as it is revealed that it could be more than a year before a vaccine is available.

Bury Council is working with other authorities in the borough, collaborating with public health bodies across Greater Manchester and following national guidance.

Lesley Jones, public health director, told the health and wellbeing board while the risk to individuals in the UK is low, authorities are still preparing for the worst.

She said: “We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst-case scenario. Both are still possible. The response has been nationally led and I have regular conference calls with the chief medical officer.

“At Greater Manchester level, there is a pre-emptive borough preparedness group. Communication around this is being led nationally.

“Monitoring is showing that there’s very high levels of awareness among people. If they think they have it, they know what to do.”

Tensions within the Chinese community have been reported elsewhere in the country. In Manchester, it was reported that fear of the coronavirus has hurt business in Chinatown.

But Mrs Jones said there have been no such reports in Bury.

The council director also told the health and wellbeing board businesses had been told to prepare for the worst.

She said: “All organisations have been asked to review their business continuity from a staff sickness point of view. Some businesses are suffering economic shock due to trade relations with China but there are no reports of that in Bury.

“We have not had any reports of adverse effects on Chinese restaurants in Bury either.”

Mrs Jones said it could be more than a year before a Coronavirus vaccine is available.

She said: “Ultimately, there will be a vaccination programme. It takes quite a while to develop a vaccine. It could take 12 months, maybe longer. There’s no treatment for this at the moment. Most people that get it have mild symptoms. But we are as prepared as we can be.”

Because coronavirus is a new illness, authorities do not know exactly how it is spread from person to person. The main symptoms are a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath.

Anyone suspected to have coronavirus is asked not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital but instead call 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with others.

Cllr Andrea Simpson, health cabinet member, said people concerned about coronavirus had been calling the medical practice in Salford where she works.

She said: “People are ringing up saying they have got symptoms and it’s just a common cold.”

People who have been to Wuhan or Hubei province in China in the last 14 days, are asked to call 111, even if they do not have symptoms. Anyone with mild symptoms after visiting other parts of China, including Macau and Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea or Malaysia, should also call 111.