/Third UK case caught coronavirus outside China

Third UK case caught coronavirus outside China

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Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor on what we know about the virus

The third person in the UK to be diagnosed with coronavirus did not catch it in mainland China, England’s chief medical officer has said.

The patient, who caught the infection elsewhere in Asia, was diagnosed in Brighton, it is understood.

Prof Chris Whitty also said doctors will now test for suspected coronavirus in patients who have recently travelled from a range of Asian countries, which will be specified later.

There have been 28,256 cases worldwide.

Of these, 565 people have died but only two of these have been outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

The third UK patient is being taken to a specialist NHS facility, Prof Chris Whitty said.

“We are using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus,” he said.

The NHS was “well prepared” to manage cases, Prof Whitty added, saying: “We are now working quickly to identify any contacts the patient has had.”

Although the Department of Health has not said where the patient is being treated, there are two infectious disease units in London – at the Royal Free Hospital, and at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust.

Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned against “panic” and “over-reaction” in response to the virus.

The University of Sussex, which has a campus on the outskirts of Brighton, said in a statement the new case was not a student or member of staff from the university.

Two other patients – both Chinese nationals – are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The patients – a university of York student and one of their relatives – tested positive for the virus after falling ill at a hotel in York.

This is not a surprise, not a reason to panic and not a reason to press the alarm bell.

For as long as the epidemic rages in China, there is a risk of people travelling to other countries, including the UK, before they become sick.

But there are crucial differences between the UK and China.

First is the scale of the problem. The UK has three confirmed cases, China has 28,000.

This case in the UK is an event that was planned for – the patient is already being isolated and anybody who came into close contact is being traced.

It is also notable this patient caught the infection abroad, it is not due to the York patients spreading the virus.

China, however, is still playing catch-up and fighting to get on top of the outbreak.

The big question is not whether the UK can handle these three cases, it’s whether China can contain the outbreak.

Earlier, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, called on the UK government to support China in its handling of the outbreak and said Chinese measures to control the spread of the virus had been effective.

Meanwhile, China is introducing more restrictive measures. In some areas group dining is banned, there are limits on how often people can go outside, and lifts have been turned off in some buildings.

Nearly 100 Britons have been flown out of Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, on flights arranged by the UK government.

All are now in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral for 14 days – the incubation period of the virus – to ensure they are not carrying the infection.

The UK government is chartering a final flight to bring British nationals back from Wuhan, which is due to leave on Sunday.

The Foreign Office has also advised Britons in other parts of China to leave the country if they can to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, which has now spread to more than two dozen nations.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the outbreak but said it did not yet constitute a “pandemic”.

The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.

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