Coronavirus: UK patient is University of York student


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Media captionMatt Raw, who was flown out of Wuhan, shows the BBC his living quarters at Arrowe Park Hospital

One of the two people to test positive for the new coronavirus in the UK is a student at the University of York.

The pair – who are related – were confirmed as having coronavirus after being taken ill at a hotel in York.

A spokesman for the university said the risk of the infection being passed on to other people on campus was low.

He said information from Public Health England “suggests that the student did not come into contact with anybody on campus whilst they had symptoms”.

“Investigations are ongoing to fully establish this,” he added.

“Our immediate concerns are for the affected student and family, along with the health and continued wellbeing of our staff, students and visitors.”

Meanwhile, Public Health England said they are making “good progress” in tracing people who have come into close contact with the two Chinese nationals, who were diagnosed as having the new strain on Friday.

Those who have been in close contact – defined as being within two metres of those infected for 15 minutes or more – will receive health advice.

It comes as 83 Britons evacuated from China on Friday began two weeks in quarantine.

The new coronavirus has caused the deaths of 259 people so far – all in China.

Cases of the virus have reached nearly 12,000 in the country – with more than 100 cases reported in 22 other countries.

On Friday, the Foreign Office announced the withdrawal of some non-essential embassy staff and their families from mainland China.

A statement said the ambassador and those staff needed to continue “critical work” would remain while British nationals in China would continue to have access to 24/7 consular assistance.

Some 83 UK nationals and 27 others were flown into the UK on a chartered evacuation flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak of coronavirus began.

Before boarding the flight, passengers had to sign papers agreeing to an enforced period of isolation.

The UK nationals were taken by coach to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and arrived on Friday evening at about 19:00 GMT.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Five coaches transported those evacuated from Wuhan to the north west of England on Friday

They will spend 14 days in quarantine – but not solitary confinement – in two apartment blocks normally used to house nurses, who have been moved to local hotels.

The UK evacuees are being put up in fully-furnished rooms, including kitchens, and provided with food and laundry facilities. Families are being kept together, with toys and baby equipment available.

All 83 will have access to a team of medical staff who will closely monitor their condition.

“They’ll be looking for the development of any types of symptoms that could be associated with the coronavirus,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of virology at Nottingham University.

“So that would be anyone developing a temperature or anybody feeling just generally unwell.”

Matt Raw, one of those in quarantine, told BBC News that he and his family “were extremely glad to be here”.

He said he, his wife and his mother were staying in a four-bedroom apartment, along with another woman and her daughter. He stressed they were feeling fine and had “an army of people looking after them”.

Mr Raw said there was a contained area outside where they were able to get some fresh air, adding they were “allowed contact with anybody within the facility, as long as we’re wearing face masks”.

The hospital continues to work “as normal” with both A&E and outpatients departments open to the public, reporter Sam Fenwick told BBC Breakfast.

She said staff at the hospital were keen to point out that people working in the hospital would not come into contact with those in quarantine, and there was “no risk to public health to people here on the Wirral”.

‘Military-grade cleansing process’

The coach company which transported the evacuees to the Wirral said health officials advised its drivers did not need to wear protective clothing for the journey.

Horseman Coaches said five drivers will nonetheless enter a two-week period of isolation at home as a precaution.

The vehicles used will also be subject to a “military-grade cleansing process”, the company added.

Efforts to trace those who may have had close contact with the two Chinese nationals who tested positive for the virus in Britain are continuing.

The pair – whose diagnosis was announced on Friday morning – were staying at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York when medics were called.

After initially being taken to Castle Hill Hospital in Hull, they are now being treated at a specialist infectious diseases unit at the Royal Infirmary in Newcastle.

The BBC’s Laxmy Gopal said residents in Newcastle were being reassured “they are not at risk”.

Image caption The two people with coronavirus stayed at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.

“Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.”

Prof Peacock previously said while staff were working to trace people who have been in contact with the pair, they do not currently have “any idea” of how high that number might be.

Staycity said that – after consultation with PHE – its York hotel would stay open and the apartment used by the two patients disinfected.

Who qualifies as a close contact?

Anyone who is within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes.

Would the virus survive on a tissue?

Probably for 15 minutes, but it is unlikely to survive on surfaces, like door handles, for more than 24 hours.

Source: Public Health England

On Thursday, the UK’s four chief medical officers raised the risk level of the illness from low to moderate and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency.

The United States declared a public health emergency on Friday night, with President Donald Trump signing an order which will temporarily bar entry for most foreign nationals who have travelled in China within the last 14 days.

On Saturday, Australia said it too would refuse entry to all non-citizens arriving from China.

Ministers said the government is prepared to send another plane to Wuhan to rescue British citizens if needed.

‘Relatively minor disease’

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said the specialist unit at the Newcastle hospital was experienced in treating people with infectious diseases and there was “a high chance people would get better”, based on current information.

“A lot of people will end up with a relatively minor disease,” he said.

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Media captionProf Chris Whitty: “There is a high chance that people will get better and end up with a relatively minor disease”

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

Virus experts said they were not surprised to see cases in the UK but there was no reason to panic.

On Friday, it emerged that the number of new coronavirus cases worldwide had overtaken that of the Sars epidemic.

However, the mortality rate is currently low, at 2% – less than Sars, at 10% and Ebola, at 70%, WHO’s chief medical officer says.

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Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor talks us through what we know about the virus

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.

Learn more about the new virus

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