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China coronavirus: 14 people in UK tested for new strain

More than a dozen people in the UK have been tested for the new strain of coronavirus, Public Health England has said.

Five people have tested negative while nine others are waiting for results.

In Scotland, where five people were tested, an incident team has been set up to deal with the health threat.

Globally, there are more than 800 confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed 26 people in China. Authorities there are battling to contain it.

Public Health England’s (PHE) announcement that 14 people in the UK had been tested came on Thursday night, but they did not give details of where the cases were.

That number includes one person in Wales who was tested last week and given the all-clear, according to Public Health Wales.

Four of the five people being tested in Scotland were believed to be Chinese, Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, one man was treated in Belfast for symptoms associated with coronavirus.

All the patients had been in Wuhan – the Chinese city where the virus first broke out – in the last 14 days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the tests were “purely precautionary”.

‘Rapidly-developing’

Prof Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, has told BBC Breakfast “we won’t be surprised” if people return from China to the UK with the infection.

He said: “These are early days yet with this virus. The vast majority of people who are infected do seem to be getting better.

“The people who have done particularly badly, and sadly died, they seem to be people who have other conditions that might make them more likely to suffer badly with this virus.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday there was an “increased likelihood” of cases of the new coronavirus occurring in the UK, but “we are well prepared” to deal with them.

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Wuhan and the UK is monitoring direct flights arriving from China as a precaution.

Passengers are receiving leaflets and advice on what to do if they fall ill, and a health team is available at Heathrow Airport to check for symptoms.

What should you do if you think you have the virus?

Public Health England is advising anyone who has been to Wuhan within the past 14 days and has developed respiratory symptoms to phone NHS 111.

Those symptoms include a cough, a sneeze, shortness of breath, or a fever.

People who are concerned should phone ahead before going to any medical facility and mention their recent travel to the city.

PHE also advises anyone travelling to China to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, and avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

The agency is currently not advising people to wear face masks.

Wuhan – which has a population of 11 million people – has gone into lockdown, with authorities suspending planes and trains in and out of the city.

Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau have also cancelled some major festivities to prevent large crowds gathering together, as the country prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

On Thursday, Vietnam and Singapore joined the list of countries where the virus had spread. Cases have also been reported in Thailand, the US, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

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The World Health Organization has declined to designate the virus an “international emergency”, but the WHO’s director general said: “It may yet become one.”

Peter Piot, professor of global health and director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The good news is that the data to date suggests that this virus may have a lower mortality than Sars, we have a diagnostic test and there is greater transparency than decades gone by.

“And that is essential because you cannot deal with a potential pandemic in one country alone.”

What do we know about the virus?

Currently known as 2019-nCoV, the virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans.

The Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed nearly 800 people globally in the early 2000s was also a coronavirus, as is the common cold.

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The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. There have not been any other suspected human cases reported prior to this.

Authorities have said it originated in a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”.

The market has been shut down since the beginning of the year.

The incubation period (how long it takes for symptoms to appear after catching the infection) is days, rather than weeks.

At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against it, but researchers are looking to develop one.

Learn more about the new virus


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