Coronavirus: Hunt for contacts of latest UK case

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Media captionCoronavirus in the UK: Five things you need to know about Covid-19

Officials are attempting to trace the contacts of the latest person to be diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK.

The woman, being treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, flew into Heathrow from China a few days ago.

England’s chief medical officer has said experts are exploring how to limit a potential epidemic in the UK to avoid an NHS crisis.

People quarantined on the Wirral after returning from the city at the centre of the outbreak are set to be released.

More than 80 people staying in accommodation at Arrowe Park Hospital will be allowed to leave after testing negative for the new strain of coronavirus.

They are one of two groups of British nationals evacuated from Wuhan, with the second quarantined near Milton Keynes.

Matt Raw, one of those quarantined on the Wirral, told BBC Breakfast that his experience was nothing like being imprisoned and that NHS staff had been “absolutely wonderful” throughout his stay.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock expressed his gratitude to those leaving Arrowe Park on Thursday and said people “can be reassured that their departure presents no risk to the public”.

The new case – announced on Wednesday evening – is the UK’s ninth and the first to be identified in London.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the patient contracted the virus in China and sources said the woman developed symptoms after landing, called NHS 111 and later tested positive.

‘Contain and delay’

Prof Whitty told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was hoped China “gets on top of the epidemic”.

But he said that containment and isolation remain the focus for medical teams – and that work was now under way to work out how to delay any potential outbreak in the UK.

He said: “We basically have a strategy which depends upon four tactical aims: the first one is to contain; the second of these is to delay; the third of these is to do the science and the research; and the fourth is to mitigate so we can brace the NHS.”

Prof Whitty added: “If we are going to get an outbreak here in the UK – and this is an if not a when – then putting it back in time, into the summer period away from the winter pressures on the NHS, buying us a bit more time to understand the virus better, possibly having some seasonal advantage, is a big advantage.”

How can you ‘delay’ the coronavirus?

If the new coronavirus does become a pandemic – a global epidemic – then it is going to hit the UK eventually.

It becomes a bullet you cannot dodge, but you can delay getting hit.

Some of this is already taking place.

Identifying and isolating patients – then tracing people they have come into contact with – are designed to stop the virus getting a foothold in the UK.

In the future, experts may consider travel bans to limit the number of imported cases and closing schools to minimise the “super-spreading” effect kids have in outbreaks.

Even a brief delay could be a big advantage – if the NHS is not overwhelmed by flu, norovirus and other winter-bugs then the health service is more likely to cope.

More time also means more research on the most effective ways of dealing with the virus.

And summer – due to the effect heat and sun may have on the virus and our own behaviour – could limit spread.

The hope remains that the coronavirus will be dealt with in China and will not become a pandemic.

On Wednesday, British businessman Steve Walsh, one of the nine UK cases of coronavirus, left hospital having fully recovered – posing “no risk” to the public.

Image caption Mr Walsh contracted coronavirus on a business trip to Singapore and unknowingly passed it on to 11 other people

He was the third case of the virus to be confirmed in the UK, following two Chinese nationals testing positive in York.

Mr Walsh contracted coronavirus on a business trip to Singapore and unknowingly passed it on to 11 other people – five then returned to the UK, two of whom worked as GPs.

A total of 1,750 people in the UK have tested negative for the virus, which causes the disease now known as Covid-19.

On Wednesday, there was a sharp increase in the number of new cases diagnosed in Wuhan and the surrounding province, Hubei, with a total of 60,000 infections and 1,350 deaths across China.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what can help stop its spread?

The main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Frequent hand washing with soap or gel, avoiding close contact with people who are ill and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, can help cut the risk of infection.

Catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it and washing your hands can minimise the risk of spreading disease.

Anyone experiencing symptoms, even if mild, after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, is advised to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service.

Read more about the coronavirus

SHOULD WE WORRY? Our health correspondent explains

YOUR QUESTIONS: Can you get it more than once?

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Do masks really help?

UNDERSTANDING THE SPREAD: A visual guide to the outbreak

LIFE UNDER LOCKDOWN: A Wuhan diary

ECONOMIC IMPACT: Why much of ‘the world’s factory’ remains closed

Do you have information to share about coronavirus in the UK? You can get in touch by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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