Coronavirus: First UK patients treated for suspected deadly virus after travelling from China

World Health Organisation says it is ‘too early’ to declare an international public health emergency

World Health Organisation provides information on Coronavirus

Fourteen people have been tested in the UK for suspected coronavirus which has infected hundreds of people in Wuhan, China, and spread to other countries including the US.

Five have been confirmed negative while nine are still awaiting results, Public Health England said, without giving any details on where the patients are being treated.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is “too early” to declare a global health emergency over the outbreak, which has killed 18 people in China.

“Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said on Thursday.

“WHO’s risk assessment is that the outbreak is a very high risk in China, and a high risk regionally and globally,” he added.

The Scottish government said there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK – although a number of people are being tested on a precautionary basis – and the risk to the public “remains low”.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the tests were “purely precautionary” and “nobody has tested positive” for the virus.

They added: “We remain in close contact with the World Health Organisation and other international partners.

“We are well prepared and well equipped, and officials and ministers will keep the situation under continuous review. The prime minister is being kept updated.”

The spokesperson said it was believed that the people undergoing tests were Chinese nationals.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that the NHS was “ready to respond appropriately” to any cases of coronavirus.

In a statement to MPs in the House Commons, he said that while “there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them”.

On Wednesday night, China suspended all flights, including international services, out of Wuhan city – the epicentre of the virus outbreak.

Another city close to Wuhan, Huanggang, is also on lockdown as officials try to contain the spread of the virus.

WHO has said most of those who have died from coronavirus “had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease”.

The organisation has also not recommended broader restrictions on trade and travel over the outbreak at this time.

Wuhan residents have been told to wear masks in public as officials battle to halt the spread of the disease

There were 653 confirmed cases of the virus, as of 7pm on Thursday, according to Chinese state media.

Earlier today, Mr Hancock said the number of deaths and cases were “likely to be higher than those that have been confirmed so far” due to the rapidly developing nature of the situation.

He told MPs how cases of the virus have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the US.

Mr Hancock said “most people” affected have experienced cold and flu symptoms, though some cases have proved fatal.

“We have been closely monitoring the situation in Wuhan and have put in place proportionate, precautionary measures,” he said.

“Since yesterday, Public Health England officials have been carrying out enhanced monitoring of direct flights from Wuhan city and all passengers on direct flights from China will receive information on what to do if they fall ill.”

He said England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, is in contact with international experts and his counterparts to monitor the situation.

One British traveller said he was surprised there were not more checks at Heathrow airport for those travelling from the Chinese city at the heart of a deadly virus outbreak.

Thomas Crosby said passengers were handed leaflets telling them to call health professionals if they develop symptoms of a new coronavirus. However, he claimed he was not screened on landing.

“I haven’t had my temperature checked,” Mr Crosby told the BBC while still at the airport. “I wasn’t questioned at passport control.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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