THE coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world has reached Inverclyde.

Sources have told the Telegraph that a patient at Inverclyde Royal Hospital has tested positive for the potentially lethal illness.

The news comes as health chiefs finalise plans for a dedicated COVID-19 testing unit in Greenock and after it was confirmed that all local schools will close down from tomorrow.

An insider said: "The hospital has one person with COVID-19.

"They are currently in isolation.

"The talk is that they will be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, however, no plan has been made about moving them as of yet."

Inverclyde Council — which publicly confirmed earlier this week there were no recorded cases of the virus here — refused to comment yesterday on the detail passed to the Telegraph.

Health chiefs also snubbed a series of questions on the matter, citing Scottish Government policy which doesn't allow for a breakdown of the figures to individual areas within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC).

Meanwhile non-urgent surgery at IRH has been cancelled, along with routine out-patient clinics, as the hospital braces itself for the impact of the virus.

In another significant development, it is understood that a coronavirus testing centre is being set up within Greenock Health Centre on the town's Duncan Street.

The Tele has learned of a plan to use the out-of-hours GP wing at the rear of the building for tests.

It's believed that the facility could be up and running over the next couple of days, as the authorities upscale testing capacity across the country.

An NHS GGC spokeswoman did not deny that the testing centre was being prepared, and said: "We are actively working with colleagues nationally and with the Scottish Government to ensure we are well prepared to address any suspected cases which may present within our area."

It was also announced yesterday that all schools and nurseries in Inverclyde are to shut from Friday, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declaring that schools they may not reopen before the summer.

Inverclyde Council said: "The Scottish Government has announced the closure of Scottish schools and nurseries from the end of the school day on Friday 20 March.

"We have been working on plans to support our pupils during closure and will announce arrangements as soon as we can."

Despite declaring on Monday that 'at this stage, there are no positive (COVID-19) cases in Inverclyde', the council refused yesterday to comment on reports of the positive test at the hospital.

After being pressed on the matter, the council said it was for either the Scottish Government or NHS to address, adding: "If they release any information about testing arrangements or specific details on cases about our area, we will of course always support the messages issued by our colleagues in the Scottish Government or NHS to warn and inform the public."

There were 44 confirmed cases in the NHS GGC health board area on Monday, with the figure rising to 49 on Tuesday.

As of 2pm yesterday — the time each day that the Scottish Government updates its data — there were 57 confirmed cases in the health board area.

Announcing the schools closures, Ms Sturgeon said: "My planning assumption is that schools will close to pupils at the end of this week.

"I wanted today to give parents notice of that."

She added that education secretary John Swinney would set out arrangements today and address questions about exams.

A health board spokeswoman said: "We want to thank all staff for continuing to care for patients and keep them safe in response to COVID-19.

"We have well-rehearsed procedures in place to manage any coronavirus or other communicable viruses.

"As part of our resilience plans to COVID-19, we are rescheduling non-urgent elective procedures and non-urgent outpatient appointments.

"This is in line with Scottish Government advice to ensure we have the right resources and staff to treat patients.

"All patients who will be affected will be contacted.

"We would like to remind patients not to visit their GP if they have symptoms and follow the advice from NHS Inform."