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Coronavirus: Spread of virus in UK ‘likely’ says Boris Johnson

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The spread of coronavirus in the UK is “likely”, the PM has said, but a plan has been agreed to tackle it.

Boris Johnson said people “should go about business as usual” at the moment, adding that the UK was “well prepared” and further details would be announced in the coming days and weeks.

It comes as the number of cases in the UK rose by four to 40 on Monday.

Meanwhile, the EU has raised the coronavirus risk level in member states to “moderate to high”.

The four new UK cases had all travelled to Italy, which has seen the largest outbreak in Europe, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said.

They are from Hertfordshire, Devon and Kent and tracing their contacts has begun.

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Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting earlier, the prime minister said: “We have agreed a plan so that if and when it starts to spread, as I’m afraid it looks likely it will, we are in a position to take the steps necessary to… contain the spread of the disease as far as we can, and to protect the most vulnerable.”

He advised that “the single most useful thing” people could do was wash their hands “two times to Happy Birthday with hot water”.

Downing Street said a UK-wide action plan to tackle coronavirus, agreed at Monday’s emergency Cobra meeting, would be published on Tuesday.

The Budget will go ahead as planned on 11 March, despite the impact of the outbreak on the UK and global economy, a spokesman said.

On Monday, a tenant at Vinters Business Park in Maidstone, which rents out office space, confirmed one of its staff members had tested positive for Covid-19.

The business park said the team was taking the precaution of self-isolating and working from home.

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Earlier, Public Health England (PHE) said widespread transmission of coronavirus in the UK was now “highly likely”.

Medical Director Prof Paul Cosford said the increase in cases in the UK and abroad meant the UK must be prepared.

If the outbreak worsens, the government has said measures could include asking newly-retired doctors and nurses to return to the NHS.

People could also be urged to work from home – and closing schools and cancelling major public events have also not been ruled out.

Thirteen cases were announced in the UK on Sunday, including 12 in England and the first patient in Scotland..

A health worker at an NHS cancer centre in Middlesex is among the cases, as is a staff member at Wimbledon College in south-west London, which has closed for deep cleaning.

Three cases in England have been linked to a man from Surrey, who was the first patient not to have been abroad recently and was instead infected within the UK.

A man who had been working in Bristol has also tested positive for the virus in Shenzhen, China, after flying from London to Hong Kong on Thursday, according to the Health Commission of Guangdong Province.

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Meanwhile, more British holidaymakers stuck in a quarantined hotel in Tenerife are preparing to return home after testing negative for the virus.

Around 25 Britons have already left the hotel, but 150 others are now in their seventh day at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace after a group of Italians contracted the virus.

Travel operator Jet2holidays said its customers would be travelling back to the UK on a dedicated flight on Monday afternoon.

Once home, they must isolate themselves until the original quarantine period ends on 10 March.

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As of 09:00 GMT on Monday, the Department of Health said a total of 13,525 people had been tested in the UK, of which 13,485 were negative.

Globally, around 86,000 people have been infected, with cases in more than 50 countries. More than 3,000 people have died – the vast majority in China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak originated in December.


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