A FRANTIC hunt is underway to track down anyone who came into contact with Britain’s first coronavirus victims – as the hotel where they fell ill remains OPEN today.
The pair, believed to be two Chinese tourists, were dramatically evacuated by hazmat medics from the £70-a-night York hotel two days ago.
Despite this, the 220-bedroom hotel has continued to take bookings, sparking grave fears more could be infected or come into contact with workers exposed to the deadly bug.
Tonight, after the government kept the public in the dark for hours, Staycity aparthotel finally confirmed it was at the centre of the UK’s outbreak.
A hotel spokesperson said: “We have now received confirmation that two guests staying in one of our apartments in York have been tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We have been advised by Public Health England that there is minimal ongoing risk of infection to either guests or staff, and as such our York property remains open for business.”
Do you know the victims? Have you stayed at the hotel recently? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 02077824368
Some rooms at the hotel have been sealed off and are being deep-cleaned today – but otherwise it’s “business as usual”.
The two patients have now been quarantined in Newcastle after testing positive.
But the race is on to find anyone they came into contact with before they started showing symptoms on Wednesday.
Dramatic video footage showed hazmat paramedics swooping on the hotel after a man travelling with two others reported feeling unwell.
Authorities are now desperately scrambling to contain the spiralling epidemic with fears up to 2,000 could be infected in the country.
Meanwhile, a convoy of coaches carrying 83 Brits rescued from coronavirus-hit China has tonight arrived at the hospital where they will be quarantined for two weeks.
The evacuees landed from the ground zero epicentre of Wuhan this afternoon to be treated at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, Merseyside.
Staff at the nearby Royal Liverpool Hospital have been warned to be on alert for patients showing possible coronavirus symptoms coming into A&E this weekend.
It is one of four specialist hospitals with Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centres (HCIDs) in England.
The flight, which contained adults and small children, landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire after Brits were rescued from the “ground-zero” epicentre of Wuhan.
It comes as…
Tonight some hotel guests were furious they had not been told about the coronavirus.
PhD Student Fris Ilfifi, 30, has been staying since the patients were evacuated on Wednesday, and said: “Two medics went up to his room and tested him.
“When I checked at reception they told me it was just normal flu. Guests were not wearing masks. Everything was carrying on as normal.
“I was scared then and I am scared now. It’s a hell of a lot to trust. I am trying to find somewhere else to stay and get out of here by next week.”
Another hotel guest from the North East blasted: “The hotel have told us nowt. We don’t know what’s going on.”
And Andy Neale and Ellisa Imrie, both 21, from Manchester, said their trip to York “was a late Xmas present which had been ruined”.
Ellisa said: “I’m fuming. The hotel has told us nothing.
“They should be taking precautions anyway so people don’t cough over each other or touch somewhere they shouldn’t.”
Health officials say they “are working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread” – amid frantic efforts to stop it spiralling out of control.
Official advice urges anyone who has come into close contact with coronavirus sufferers to “self-isolate” to prevent the infection spreading.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.
“What they’ll be doing is aiming to contact everybody who has been in contact with these two cases and prevent onward transmission.”
It confirms fears the government acted too late to prevent the crisis hitting Britain, only putting in travel restrictions several days after the outbreak worsened in China.
RACE AGAINST TIME
Experts today said the news had come as no surprise and “is what we have been expecting for the last week” – despite repeated claims by ministers the crisis was “under control”.
It means England is the 23rd country or territory outside of China to have confirmed coronavirus cases.
Dr Michael Head, from the University of Southampton, warned how contagious and easily spread the deadly disease is.
He said: “Hopefully, as seen elsewhere, the case numbers will be very limited. But the key concern will be if there is significant human to human transmission.”
Official figures released today showed a total of 192 UK tests have concluded, of which 2 were found to be positive.
Two students from Bristol and London were bundled out of accommodation yesterday with suited-up paramedics with suspected symptoms.
It comes as China has its deadliest day yet with the death toll reaching 213 and cases surging towards 10,000.
Despite today’s rescue flight bringing home some of the Brits, many remain stranded in Wuhan after Chinese authorities said anyone with a local passport should stay.
It has left British families facing a tough decision – to remain together in the deadly zone or split their family by flying some members home.
The evacuation came after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency.
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have suspended flights from virus-hit China to the UK.
HIGH ALERT: Chief Medical Officer confirms two cases of coronavirus in the UK
Announcing the two cases in the UK, Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, said: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“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.
“We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”
The British passengers on the evacuation flight – who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province – had to sign a contract agreeing to isolation before they could board the flight, and underwent temperature checks.
They will be taken by bus to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral where they will be housed in an NHS staff accommodation block with access to the internet.
Anyone with suspicious symptoms will be taken to the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, which has a high-level infectious diseases unit.
What is coronavirus and how to spot the symptoms?
Coronavirus is an airborne virus, spread in a similar way to colds and the flu.
The virus attacks the respiratory system, causing lung lesions.
Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever, shortness of breath, chills and body aches.
It is incredibly contagious and is spread through contact with anything the virus is on as well as infected breath, coughs or sneezes.
The symptoms include:
- A runny nose
- Cough and fever
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
In most cases, you won’t know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus.
But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (your windpipe and your lungs), it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.
There is no vaccine for coronavirus.
In 2003 an outbreak of a similar virus, SARS, infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries before it was brought under control, killing 800 of those worldwide.
British citizen Chris Hill, who lives in Wuhan with his wife and four-year-old daughter, refused to take the offered flight as the FCO could not confirm he would be able to bring his daughter Renee with him as she is a Chinese citizen.
“With the current situation and the way the FCO is handling the diplomatic side of things, I’m just losing faith,” Mr Hill said.
The Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality, and it is believed people with Chinese citizenship were unable to leave the affected area.
Coronavirus hits UK: what you need to know
Killer coronavirus has reached the UK, with two Brits struck down with the infection.
Here’s what you need to know…
Where are the infected people in the UK?
It’s unclear where the coronavirus victims are at the moment.
But it’s understood they will have been taken to one of the UK’s four high level isolation units.
These include the Royal Free in London, Royal Liverpool Hospital, Newcastle Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.
What precautions can I take again coronavirus?
The virus is transmitted between people in droplets from coughing and sneezing and touching or shaking hands.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from catching 2019-nCoV is to be aware of the symptoms, which include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- High temperature
Most victims of the virus die from complications including pneumonia and swelling in the lungs.
It also causes swelling in the respiratory system, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.
Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to “drown” in the fluid flooding their lungs.
So far those who have died in China have been older or have a weakened immune system.
The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
It says that in order to reduce your risk of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.
You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
If you have returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days:
- Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with other flu viruses
- Call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the city
If you are in Northern Ireland, call your GP.
Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.
Should I wear a mask?
Chinese authorities have encouraged people to wear surgical masks to help stop the spread of the new virus.
But some infectious disease experts say that there’s little high-quality scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of them outside of a clinical setting.
Instead they say that washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask.
Will it spread?
Coronavirus is spread through coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated surfaces.
Since the new infection emerged a month ago, cases have rapidly soared and spread borders.
In recent weeks, the first human-to-human transmission in people who have never been to China have been confirmed.
The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Experts say that it was “only a matter of time” before the deadly bug hit the UK and warn it could spread – but it’s hoped cases will be “very limited”.
Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said: “The UK cases are unsurprising to see.
“Given the spread to other European and North American countries, it was really only a matter of time until the UK ended up with confirmed cases.
“Hopefully, as seen elsewhere, the case numbers will be very limited.
“The key concern will be if there is significant human to human transmission.”
What are the government doing?
Advanced monitoring at airports is being carried out on direct flights from China.
A team of public health experts have been established at Heathrow to support anyone who feels unwell.
This is in addition to medical staff who are already permanently based at all UK airports.
The government has issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis and infection prevention and control.
The UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease.
Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to Wuhan have been advised to submit samples to PHE for testing.
Individuals will be treated in isolation.