UK expands coronavirus countries list after third positive test
Travellers who have arrived in the UK in the past fortnight from countries including Thailand and Singapore are being advised to self-isolate if they begin feeling unwell.
The Government has released new advice for travellers from a list of Asian countries and territories also including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Macau, as well as mainland China.
Anyone arriving from these locations should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if they develop symptoms such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath, the advice warns.
It comes as a third person tested positive for coronavirus in the UK after contracting the disease in Asia, but not in mainland China.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty did not say which country the patient was in when they contracted coronavirus, or whether it was caught directly from someone who had been in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, but it is understood the patient contracted the illness in Singapore.
The patient is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and was transferred St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where there is an infectious diseases unit, on Thursday afternoon.
Two other patients are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle.
Prof Whitty said: “The patient is being transferred to a specialist NHS centre and we are using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus.
“The NHS is well prepared to manage these cases and we are now working quickly to identify any contacts the patient has had.”
The new advice for travellers, posted on the Government website, says: “Based on the scientific advice of Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), the UK chief medical officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days, and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.
“These countries have been identified because of the volume of air travel from affected areas, understanding of other travel routes and number of reported cases. This list will be kept under review.”
Until now, this advice only related to people from Wuhan in China. Anyone with symptoms will be tested for coronavirus.
Prof Whitty said: “We knew this ratchet up might well happen and this is the moment where we feel it’s prudent… to make this shift.
“What we have got is a situation where very high risk remains in Wuhan and Hubei, a high risk in the rest of China, but much lower than in Wuhan and Hubei, and then a much smaller risk in a number of countries, and unsurprisingly countries where the greatest risk is in terms of new cases are the ones which have the greatest international traffic with China, and that is exactly as you would expect.”
He said there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person onward transmission of the virus outside China.
The University of Sussex, which has a large campus on the outskirts of Brighton, said in a statement that the new case was not a student or member of staff there.
Health officials are not understood to be “contact tracing” people on any Asia-UK flight the latest sufferer may have travelled on.
The UK Foreign Office has advised Britons in China to leave if they are able to.
Earlier, the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned against “rumours and panic” after concerns were raised that Boris Johnson has not offered a personal message of support to China’s leaders.
Speaking to reporters in London, Liu Xiaoming said: “It is of hope that governments of all countries, including the UK, should understand and support China’s efforts, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic, and ensure normal co-operation and exchanges between countries.”
Earlier he tweeted that the UK should respect the World Health Organisation, which has warned against travel and trade restrictions on China.
It comes after it emerged that the Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson sent an email saying Mr Liu was unhappy that the Prime Minister had not sent a personal message to officials in China.
Mr Johnson Snr accidentally included someone at the BBC in the list of officials he sent the message to after meeting the Chinese ambassador to discuss environmental matters.
The BBC reported that Mr Johnson Snr wrote: “Re the outbreak of coronavirus, Mr Liu obviously was concerned that there had not yet – so he asserted – been direct contact between the PM and Chinese head of state or government in terms of a personal message or telephone call.”
Downing Street said Mr Johnson Snr is a private citizen and was not acting for the Government in any official or unofficial capacity.
More than 80 UK citizens and family members who were the first to be quarantined at Arrow Park Hospital on the Wirral have been told they can leave next Thursday.
The group are spending 14 days in isolation but will be released next week as long as they remain symptom-free.
Meanwhile, 78 people with British passports – including crew – are in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, sources told the PA news agency.
Health workers in Yokohama said 10 more people on the Princess Cruises vessel had tested positive for the disease, in addition to 10 on Wednesday when the ship was ordered to be isolated.
Sources told PA that no British people on the ship have tested positive so far.
There are no plans to fly anyone off the ship and back to the UK at the moment.
A separate ship in Hong Kong, the World Dream, has about 66 British passport-holders on board, officials told PA. Nobody on that ship has tested positive.
PA understands that passengers are unable to leave the ship but are not in quarantine and can move around freely on board.
The global death toll from coronavirus rose to 565 on Thursday, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 28,273. Some 260 cases have been recorded outside China.