Third patient in UK tests positive for killer coronavirus and is whisked off to quarantine – after footage emerges of paramedics in hazmat suit at house in York less than a mile from last cases
- Patient is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and taken to London unit
- Public Health England said patient didn’t catch highly contagious disease in UK
- Killer virus has so far claimed 565 lives and infected 28,500 people worldwide
A third person in the UK has tested positive for coronavirus in the UK – hours after footage emerged of paramedics in hazmat suits swooping on a house in York less than a mile from the previous two cases.
The patient is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and whisked off to a specialist infectious diseases unit at a London hospital this morning where they will be kept in isolation for at least two weeks.
Public Health England said the patient did not catch the highly contagious disease in the UK, suggesting they had recently flown back from China and were not properly screened on arrival.
It comes amid a furious backlash at the Government’s ‘passive’ response to the outbreak so far, after 16 countries including the US and Australia banned anyone from entering if they had been in China in the past two weeks.
Scores of travellers from the disease-stricken country have been pouring into Britain every day without being properly tested for the disease, prompting calls for a similar blanket travel ban.
The killer virus has so far claimed 565 lives and infected more than 28,500 people in 28 countries and territories around the world.
It comes after footage surfaced of paramedics in full white protective suits and face masks at a house in York – less than a mile from the hotel where the first two cases had stayed.
A neighbour claimed they saw the paramedics march a young woman outside the property, thought to be rented by students, at 7.20pm and load her into the back of the van.
Medics in full white protective suits and face masks were filmed leaving a residential home in York in an ambulance on Tuesday night
A neighbour claimed they marched a young woman outside the property at 7.20pm and loaded her into the back of the van
More than 28,000 people are now confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus and 565 have died worldwide
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, confirmed the third positive test this afternoon.
In a statement, he said: ‘A further patient has tested positive for coronavirus bringing the total number of cases in the UK to three. The individual did not acquire this in the UK.
‘The patient is being transferred to a specialist NHS centre, and we are using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus.
‘The NHS is well prepared to manage these cases and we are now working quickly to identify any contacts the patient has had.’
Details about the case are scarce, but it is thought the patient was diagnosed at a hospital in Brighton and is currently being transferred to an Airborne High Consequence Infectious Disease (AHCID) unit in London.
Only four hospitals in England are equipped with these wards, two of which are in the capital – the Royal Free and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Access to these units is restricted to a team of trained medical staff who are made to wear protective gowns, face masks, visors and gloves before entering.
In some cases, a specially-designed tent with a ventilator is set up around the patient’s bed which allows staff to treat and feed them without physically touching them.
The latest incident occurred a mile away from the Staycity hotel where the first two confirmed coronavirus patients – a York University student and his mother – were staying.
The witness who filmed the incident on Tuesday said a dozen or so University of York students lived in the home where the woman was collected.
UK health bosses are on red alert for more cases of the deadly virus on home soil after a York University student and his mother were confirmed to have it last week
The witness who filmed the incident on Tuesday night said a dozen or so University of York students live in the home where the woman was collected
The death toll jumped by more than 70 overnight, taking total deaths to 565 since January 20
The number of people infected with the coronavirus has soared since late January. The true toll is expected to be considerably higher as many may have such mild symptoms they never get diagnosed
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
More than 28,300 people are now confirmed to have been infected with the 2019-nCoV.
Some 28,000 of the cases have been in mainland China, and the rest in other countries around the world, most of those in people travelling from China.
A total of 565 people have died, only two of those outside of mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
Dozens of countries have restricted the movement of people from China by either banning foreign citizens from entering their country if they have been to China in the past two weeks, or stopping all flights from China.
Western nations have been chartering planes to the crisis-hit city of Wuhan to evacuate their citizens. Australia and New Zealand evacuated this week and the UK will send its second plane on Sunday.
China said it will open 11 extra makeshift hospitals to deal with overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients. Streets all over the country are deserted as people are too afraid to leave their homes.
They added that the ambulance arrived and took her away without sounding the siren. ‘It is a student house with about four or five people living in, so it is most likely she was a student,’ they said.
‘I imagine the people in the house were concerned. I was just visiting someone on the street, but it was scary to see. The obvious concern is that it is another coronavirus case, which is worrying.’
Public Health England refused to comment on the video, saying it will not ‘be providing rolling updates on suspected cases’.
Dr Michael Head, a senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, said it was ‘not surprising’ to see a third case.
He added: ‘It has been expected that the UK would see more than just the two previous cases. Therefore, public health and NHS authorities will be well prepared to deal with and follow-up on this news.
‘Clearly the outbreak is at a very important point, both globally and here in the UK. It looks at this stage like the infection is imported, rather than acquired through human-to-human transmission within the UK.
‘So far, outside of China, there has been very limited human transmission of the coronavirus, which is good news in terms of potentially being able to contain the international spread.’
The UK Government has been slammed for its handling of the epidemic so far for leaving UK nationals trapped in China in limbo, and not having proper screening in place for travellers from the disease-stricken country.
Scores of passengers fleeing the coronavirus-hit country have been pouring into Britain every day without being tested for the virus, prompting calls for a blanket travel ban similar to that imposed by the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Saudi Arabia today became the 16th nation to ban travellers from coronavirus-hit China from entering the country. A total of 31 countries have imposed some form of travel ban or to have suspended all flights to the mainland
But the UK is still bound to EU immigration laws and obligated to fall in line with any decisions on travel restrictions made by the bloc until the end of the year, despite having technically left on January 31.
The Government is said to be considering imposing the ban anyway, against the will of Brussels. But sources say it would be pointless if the EU does not follow suit as passengers could still enter Britain indirectly via another EU state due to freedom of movement rules.
‘What is the point in one of you banning flights if none of the others are going to do it?’ a senior government source told MailOnline. ‘Because you just get in by an indirect route.’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said last night: ‘We can monitor flights from China landing back in the UK but we can’t monitor those landing from China in the rest of Europe. EU freedom of movement does make us more vulnerable.’
A total of 469 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus, of which 466 came back negative.
York Central MP Rachel Maskell attacked officials for not being transparent with the panicked public amid the outbreak.
She said: ‘It is crucial that the public are kept informed of developments associated with the Coronavirus infection.
‘I have raised this twice in the House of Commons this week and am awaiting a further meeting with the Minister.’
The first confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the UK – an unnamed Chinese male student from York University and his mother – were diagnosed last Friday.
The pair had been staying at the £50-a-night Staycity Aparthotel in the city when they were taken ill last Wednesday.
A spokesman for the University of York insisted the student confirmed to have contracted the deadly virus did not set foot on campus or in student halls after returning from China.
A statement said: ‘The affected student did not come into contact with the virus on campus or in the Vita accommodation… We understand that this update will cause concern, and we would like to stress that the level of risk remains negligible.’
China’s ambassador to the UK today criticised the Foreign Office’s advice for all 30,000 of its citizens in mainland China to come home, urging the Government to take ‘professional advice’ from the World Health Organization.
At a press conference today, Liu Xiaoming said: ‘[There] should be no panic, no overreaction. We advise the British side to take professional advice of WHO.
‘They told us they will follow WHO’s advice. It seems to me the words do not match with the deeds.
‘Life is still normal in most parts of China so I do say again in private and public I hope the British Government and public take an objective, cool-headed view of what is going on. We should support each other rather than weaken the other’s efforts.’
What do we know about the Wuhan coronavirus?
Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.
At least 565 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 28,200 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases. Here’s what we know so far:
What is the Wuhan coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
HOW CHINA’S CORONAVIRUS HAS SPREAD
The vast majority of confirmed infections of the Wuhan coronavirus have been diagnosed in China.
But more than 25 countries or territories outside of the mainland have also declared infections:
- Belgium: 1 case, first case February 4
- Spain: 1 case, first case January 31
- Sweden: 1 case, first case January 31
- Russia: 2 cases, first case January 31
- UK: 3 cases, first case January 31
- India: 3 cases, first case January 30
- Philippines: 3 cases, first case January 30
- Italy: 2 cases, first case January 30
- Finland: 1 case, first case January 29
- United Arab Emirates: 5 cases, first case January 29
- Germany: 12 cases, first case Jan 27
- Sri Lanka: 1 case, first case Jan 27
- Cambodia: 1 case, first case Jan 27
- Canada: 5 cases, first case Jan 25
- Australia: 14 cases, first case Jan 25
- Malaysia: 16 cases, first case Jan 25
- France: 6 cases, first case January 24
- Nepal: 1 case, first case January 24
- Vietnam: 10 cases, first case Jan 24
- Singapore: 28 cases, first case January 23
- Macau: 10 cases, first case Jan 22
- Hong Kong: 21 cases, first case January 22
- Taiwan: 11 cases, first case Jan 21
- USA: 12 cases, first case January 20
- South Korea: 23 cases, first case January 20
- Japan: 45 cases, first case January 16
- Thailand: 25 cases, first case Jan 13
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.
By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.
There may have been an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human, researchers suggested, although details of this are less clear.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has so far killed 565 people out of a total of at least 28,000 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.
Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.
Can the virus be cured?
The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.
She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.
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