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UK prepared for coronavirus cases, says medical chief

Britons have been urged to leave the Chinese region at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak – if they can.

The Foreign Office advises against “all travel to Hubei province” as China struggles to contain the deadly virus.

It added: “If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so.

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“This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.”

The warning came as the number of suspected coronavirus cases in the UK reached 31.

So far, all tests have come back negative, says the Department of Health (DoH).

The risk to the public is still classed as “low”.

However, the DoH continues to trace more than 2,000 people who recently flew to the UK from Wuhan, the area at the heart of the deadly flu-like virus.

Border Force officers are helping search for passengers as testing for the virus continues in the UK.

The Government’s Cobra emergency committee has met and was chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

One British man who had travelled to Wuhan to visit his girlfriend is stuck in the city after his return flight on February 3rd was cancelled.

He described trying to get out of the area as “impossible”.

The un-named 29-year-old told the Press Association:

“There have been sporadic warnings from local government in Chinese to tell us that there will be road closures.

“There is no news on when the airport will re-open therefore the airline (China Southern) have just cancelled the flight.

“I’ve also had no help from the UK Embassy in Beijing who are conveniently closed for the weekend.”

Health officials believe there’s a “fair chance” coronavirus cases would emerge in Britain.

More than 2,000 people around the world have been infected – and 56 have died.

Professor Chris Whitty

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said:

“I am working closely with the other UK chief medical officers.

“We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage.

“The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.

“A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today.

“This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures.”

Prof Whitty added: “We think there’s a fair chance we may get some cases over time.

“Of course, this depends on whether this continues for a long time, or whether this turns out to be something which is brought under control relatively quickly.

“I think we should definitely see this as a marathon, not a sprint, we need to have our entire response based on that principle.

“What we don’t know is how far it’s going to spread, that really is something we need to plan for all eventualities.”

 

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