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Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK

Two people from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, the chief medical officer for England has announced.

It is understood the patients were staying in a hotel in Yorkshire, before being taken overnight to a specialist centre in Newcastle.

At least 213 people in China have died from the virus, with almost 10,000 cases nationally.

There have been 98 cases in another 18 countries.

Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said the NHS was “extremely well-prepared for managing infections” and it was quickly trying to identify any contacts the patients had to prevent further spread.

“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately,” he added.

Prof Whitty said the UK was working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community as the outbreak in China develops “to ensure we are ready for all eventualities”.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said the possibility of further spread was “minimal” because the cases were caught early.

“For the majority of those who contract this virus, the outcome will be a mild respiratory illness from which they will recover,” he said.

It was a situation “that should not cause undue alarm”, Prof Jones added.

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The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency on Thursday.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has now surpassed that of the Sars epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003.

The mortality rate for the new strain of coronavirus is currently low, at 2% – less than Sars at 10% and Ebola at 70%, the chief medical officer says.

But the death rate could yet go up if more of those in hospital die, or down if it’s discovered there are many other people with mild symptoms.

Flying Britons home

At present, 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals are flying back to the UK from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

The flight is due to land at RAF Brize Norton on Oxfordshire at 13:30 GMT.

The UK passengers will then be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and quarantined for two weeks.

Cllr Pat Hackett, leader of Wirral Council, said they would be housed in an accommodation block, separate from the main hospital.

He added: “All services in the hospital are running as usual including emergency services, outpatients and planned surgery. Staff working in the hospital will not be in contact with these UK citizens.

“We understand this is a stressful time for the people on the flight, but also their families. After a very long journey, we welcome them to our borough and trust they will be comfortable during their time here.”

Detective work now needed

This is not a surprise and is a moment the country has been preparing for.

The response now will be two-fold.

The first is to treat the patients while preventing any spread of the virus.

This is something specialist centres in the NHS have plenty of experience of – including when caring for patients that caught Ebola during the outbreak in west Africa in 2014.

The second is a massive feat of detective work to find out who these patients may have passed the virus on to.

Last night, doctors in Germany confirmed cases there had spread before people even developed symptoms.

Effective “contact tracing” is how the virus can be contained.

There is still much we do not know about these cases, but the situation in the UK is completely different to China where there are nearly 10,000 cases and the authorities are still trying to get on top of the outbreak.

Learn more about the new virus

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