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Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK as WHO declared global health emergency

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Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK
Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK

Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK as Coronavirus declared global health emergency by WHO

Few hours after WHO declared Coronavirus global health emergency,  Two people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, the chief medical officer for England has announced.

They are both members of the same family and are receiving specialist NHS care.

No more details are being released about their identity or where they are being treated.

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

There have been 98 cases of the virus in another 18 countries.

Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said: “The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly 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”.

The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency yesterday.

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 at 13:30 GMT.

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

Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK as Coronavirus declared global health emergency by WHO
Two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK as Coronavirus declared global health emergency by WHO

Coronavirus declared global health emergency by WHO

The new coronavirus has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization, as the outbreak continues to spread outside China.

“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The concern is that it could spread to countries with weaker health systems.

Meanwhile, the US has told its citizens not to travel to China.

The state department issued a level four warning – having previously urged Americans to “reconsider” travel to China – and said any citizens in China “should consider departing using commercial means”.

China has said it will send charter plans to bring back Hubei province residents who are overseas “as soon as possible”.

A foreign ministry spokesman said this was because of the “practical difficulties” Chinese citizens have faced abroad. Hubei is where the virus emerged.

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

The WHO said there had been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths.

Most international cases are in people who had been to Wuhan in Hubei.

However in eight cases – in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States – patients were infected by people who had travelled to China.

Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros described the virus as an “unprecedented outbreak” that has been met with an “unprecedented response”.

He praised the “extraordinary measures” Chinese authorities had taken, and said there was no reason to limit trade or travel to China.

“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he said.

But various countries have taken steps to close borders or cancel flights, and companies like Google, Ikea, Starbucks and Tesla have closed their shops or stopped operations.

The US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, has said the outbreak could “accelerate the return of jobs to North America”.

What happens if this virus finds its way into a country that cannot cope?

Many low- and middle-income countries simply lack the tools to spot or contain it. The fear is it could spread uncontrollably and that it may go unnoticed for some time.

Remember this is a disease which emerged only last month – and yet there are already almost 10,000 confirmed cases in China.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa – the largest in human history – showed how easily poorer countries can be overwhelmed by such outbreaks.

And if novel coronavirus gets a significant foothold in such places, then it would be incredibly difficult to contain.

We are not at that stage yet – 99% of cases are in China and the WHO is convinced the country can control the outbreak there.

But declaring a global emergency allows the WHO to support lower- and middle-income countries to strengthen their disease surveillance – and prepare them for cases.

How is China handling the outbreak?

A confirmed case in Tibet means the virus has reached every region in mainland China. According to the country’s National Health Commission, 9,692 cases have tested positive.

The central province of Hubei, where nearly all deaths have occurred, is in a state of lockdown. The province of 60 million people is home to Wuhan, the heart of the outbreak.

The city has effectively been sealed off and China has put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus.

How is the world responding?

Voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan are under way.

The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.

Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland in a detention centre that has been used to house asylum seekers.

BBC

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