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Coronavirus: UK cases rise to 40 as government issues fresh warning

Prime minister says outbreak 'likely' to become 'more significant' soon 

Rory Sullivan
Monday 02 March 2020 15:10 GMT
Coronavirus: Four more people in England test positive

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has risen to 40, the government has announced.

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty revealed the new total in a statement.

"As of 9am this morning, four further patients in England have tested positive for Covid-19," he said.

Mr Whitty added that the four patients had recently returned from Italy and that "contact tracing" has started.

Earlier on Monday, Boris Johnson said after an emergency Cobra meeting that the coronavirus outbreak in the UK was "likely" to become "more significant" in the days ahead.

He said: "We have also agreed a plan so that if and when it starts to spread, as I'm afraid it looks likely it will, we are in a position to take the steps necessary to contain the spread of the disease as far as we can, and to protect the most vulnerable."

The prime minister said that decisions to close schools and ban mass gatherings would be guided by scientific advice, adding that chief medical officers would help the government to take key protective decisions.

The government's "battle plan" to manage the spread of the illness will be published on Tuesday.

It is thought that extra powers allowing the government to help control the virus will pass into legislation by the end of March.

These measures could include retired nurses and doctors going back to work, encouraging people to work from home and cancelling major events.

A government source told the PA news agency it might be "months rather than weeks" before the illness hits its peak in the UK, saying the government wanted people to carry on with their daily lives as much as possible.

Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England (PHE), warned on Monday that widespread transmission of the virus in the UK is "now highly likely" and may even happen in the next few days.

This comes as the European Commission raised the risk level of coronavirus from "moderate" to "high" for countries in the bloc.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) said it expects more countries to report "more cases and clusters" of Covid-19 in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, dozens of Britons stuck in quarantine in a hotel in Tenerife will soon fly back to the UK, where they will self-isolate for two weeks.

Elsewhere, Richard Ratcliffe said his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is in jail in Iran, has "all the symptoms" of the illness but is yet to be tested.

Coronavirus has so far spread to more than 60 countries around the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said around four in five people with the virus have mild symptoms and recover.

The WHO added that older people or those with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are at greater risk from the illness.

Additional reporting from PA

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