/Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK

Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK

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The UK is working closely with the World Health Organization over the virus

Two people from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, the chief medical officer for England has announced.

They are being treated at a specialist centre in Newcastle after being taken there overnight.

At least 213 people in China have died from the virus, mostly in Hubei, with almost 10,000 cases nationally.

There have been 98 cases of the virus in another 18 countries.

Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said: “The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately,” he added.

Prof Whitty said the UK was working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community as the outbreak in China develops “to ensure we are ready for all eventualities”.

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Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor talks us through what we know about the virus

The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency yesterday.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has now surpassed that of the Sars epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003.

At present, 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals are flying back to the UK from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

The flight is due to land at RAF Brize Norton at 13:30 GMT.

The UK passengers will then be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and quarantined for two weeks.

Cllr Pat Hackett, leader of Wirral Council, said they would be housed in an accommodation block, separate from the main hospital.

He added: “All services in the hospital are running as usual including emergency services, outpatients and planned surgery. Staff working in the hospital will not be in contact with these UK citizens.

“We understand this is a stressful time for the people on the flight, but also their families. After a very long journey, we welcome them to our borough and trust they will be comfortable during their time here.”

Detective work now needed

This is not a surprise and is a moment the country has been preparing for.

The response now will be two-fold.

The first is to treat the patients while preventing any spread of the virus.

This is something specialist centres in the NHS have plenty of experience of – including when caring for patients that caught Ebola during the outbreak in west Africa in 2014.

The second is a massive feat of detective work to find out who these patients may have passed the virus on to.

Last night, doctors in Germany confirmed cases there had spread before people even developed symptoms.

Effective “contact tracing” is how the virus can be contained.

There is still much we do not know about these cases, but the situation in the UK is completely different to China where there are nearly 10,000 cases and the authorities are still trying to get on top of the outbreak.

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