Published:  12:05 AM, 11 February 2020

UK government declares 'imminent threat'

UK government declares 'imminent threat' Passengers from China disembark from a plane at RAF Brize Norton near Oxford, Britain, Sunday. -Reuters

Britain on Monday 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."Four further patients in England have tested positive for novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight," England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

The new cases were all known contacts of a previously confirmed British patient in France, and were identified by public health officials working to trace possible cases.Health minister Matt Hancock declared the virus "a serious and imminent threat to public health", a step that gives the government more powers to isolate people.

"We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public," a health ministry spokesman said.Arrowe Park Hospital, near Liverpool in northern England, and Kents Hill Park, in Milton Keynes, have been designated as isolation facilities.

Four more patients in England have tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in Britain to eight, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Monday. The new cases were all known contacts of a previously confirmed British patient in France, and were identified by public health officials working to trace possible cases.

The new cases are all linked to a British man who caught the virus at a conference in Singapore and stopped at a ski resort in France before returning to the UK. He was diagnosed in Brighton, and is being treated at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

He is also linked to the fourth UK patient, who was exposed to the virus in France, while five British nationals tested positive in France following his trip to the ski resort. Confirming the four new cases on Monday, chief medical officer for England Prof Chris Whitty said they were all "known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France".

He added that they have been transferred to specialist NHS centers at Guy's and St Thomas' and the Royal Free hospitals in London.


---Reuters, London


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