Coronavirus: UK patient is University of York student

By | February 1, 2020

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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.

Public Health England (PHE) said it was making “good progress” in tracing people who have come into close contact with the two Chinese nationals.

The university spokesman said information from PHE “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.

He said the immediate concern was for the affected student and their family, along with the health and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors.

The Department of Health said no further positive cases had been confirmed in the UK by 14:00 GMT on Saturday, with 201 people testing negative from 203 tests.

PHE said those who have been in close contact with the pair – defined as being within two metres for 15 minutes or more – will receive health advice.

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of its National Infection Service said staff do not currently have “any idea” how many people that might be.

The new coronavirus has caused the deaths of 259 people so far – all in China, where the virus was first discovered.

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It comes as the 83 Britons evacuated from Wuhan, in Hubei province, on Friday began two weeks in quarantine.

The two York patients, whose diagnosis was announced on Friday morning, were staying at the Staycity apartment-hotel when medics were called.

Staycity said that the hotel will stay open and the apartment used by the two patients disinfected.

They are now being treated at a specialist infectious diseases unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and residents of the city are being reassured they are not at risk.

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

On Friday, the Foreign Office said it would withdraw some non-essential embassy staff and their families from mainland China.

It said the ambassador and staff who 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 on Friday evening.

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.

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They will have access to a team of medical staff who will closely monitor their condition and any developing symptoms.

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 an 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”.

‘Military-grade cleansing process’

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

Horseman Coaches said five drivers will 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.

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.

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

Meanwhile, 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.

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

On Friday, it emerged that the number of new coronavirus cases worldwide had overtaken that of the 2003 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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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.

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