UK declares coronavirus a serious and imminent threat to public health

UK declares coronavirus a serious and imminent threat to public health

Plane carrying passengers from China lands at RAF Brize Norton near Oxford
A bus transports passengers, who arrived in Britain from China, out of RAF Brize Norton near Oxford, Britain, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON: Britain on Monday (Feb 10) said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had doubled to eight as the government declared the virus a serious and imminent threat, giving it additional powers to isolate those suspected of being infected.

Alarm over the coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, in December is driven by its rapid spread and the fact that infectious disease experts cannot yet know how deadly or contagious it is.

It has killed more than 900 people, most of them in China, and has spread to at least 27 countries and territories. The two deaths outside mainland China were in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The new cases in England were all known contacts of a previously confirmed British patient in France, and were identified by public health officials working to trace possible cases.

READ: Fourth case of coronavirus found in UK; patient linked to Briton who had been in Singapore

Health minister Matt Hancock declared the virus "a serious and imminent threat to public health" to give doctors more powers to isolate people.

"We are taking a belt and braces approach to all necessary precautions to ensure public safety," he said. "Clinical advice has not changed about the risk to the public, which remains moderate."

Arrowe Park Hospital, near Liverpool, in northern England, and Kents Hill Park, in Milton Keynes, some 50 miles north of London, have been designated as isolation facilities.

British nationals who have been flown back from Wuhan are being quarantined for 14 days while travellers returning home from other Asian countries have been told to self-isolate if they showed any of the coronavirus symptoms.

The new cases in Britain are linked to a Briton who had returned from Singapore and stayed at a French ski resort between Jan 24 and Jan 28.

An official from Singapore's Ministry of Health had said that the man had attended a private business meeting at Grand Hyatt Singapore.

READ: Five Britons in French ski resort catch coronavirus after contact with man who had been in Singapore

READ: What we know about the 3 local transmission clusters of coronavirus

On Sunday, French health officials said five British nationals including a child had been diagnosed with the new coronavirus at the mountain village.

Airline easyJet said Public Health England had contacted all passengers who were on board a flight from Geneva to London on Jan 28 after one of those on board was later diagnosed with coronavirus.

"Although the risk to others on board the flight is very low, crew who operated the flight have been advised to monitor their health for a 14 day period since the flight in line with Public Health England advice," the airline said.

"The original flight was 13 days ago and none are displaying any symptoms.”

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Source: Reuters/nh

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