Jumpy Britain on red alert for coronavirus

Jumpy Britain on red alert for coronavirus: Bath university confirms suspected case is in self-isolation waiting for test results as nervous resident spots hazmat-suit wearing visitor in London

  • A person at the University of Bath is suspected of having the coronavirus
  • Image shows a person in protective gear on a street in south London
  • A care home in Brighton is closed to visitors amid a scare of virus spread
  • A private school in Ipswich has had to deny a local rumour about a case there
  • 1,358 people have been tested in England and 1,350 have been negative 

The UK is on high alert for more cases of coronavirus as more people are being tested and images have emerged of medics in protective gear.

A student at the University of Bath is in self-isolation awaiting the results of a test, the institution confirmed today. 

While a worried resident in London took a photo of someone in full protective gear outside their neighbour’s flat.

And a private school in Ipswich has been forced to deny rumours of a case among its pupils after someone at a local church made the claim at a service. 

Five cases of the virus have been diagnosed in England in the past week, taking the total to eight – all are being kept in isolation in hospitals in London and Newcastle.

A ‘member of the community’ at the University of Bath (pictured) is in self-isolation and awaiting the results of a coronavirus test, the university has confirmed

A spokesperson for the University of Bath said: ‘A member of the University community is being tested for coronavirus as a precaution and is self-isolating pending the outcome of the test results as advised by Public Health England (PHE).

‘We are working closely with PHE and will continue to monitor the situation and support this individual.

‘The health and safety of our staff, students, visitors and the wider community is our top priority.

‘Anyone concerned about their health in relation to coronavirus should follow PHE guidance and contact NHS 111 if the guidance advises them to do so.’

The person concerned is reportedly waiting for test results from a lab in Bristol, which should be confirmed today or tomorrow.

Bath councillor and University of Exeter scientist, Dr Bharat Pankhania, told Bath Live: ‘While we are in the containment phase of the virus, we really have to take this drastic action [isolation].

‘At this point, the person affected will await the results of the test, which will be either positive or negative.

‘During self-isolation, they will need to stay indoors and not have any contact with anyone else – food will be delivered to their doorstep.

‘If they do start to feel unwell – for example if they experience SOB [shortness of breath] – they will immediately be taken to hospital in a very programmed way.

‘If the result is confirmed as positive, we must immediately keep this person out of circulation.

‘Then, we must contact everyone that this person may have been in contact with – this is a very important step of the containment phase – they will also need to be tested.’

The possible case in Bath comes after a person living in Bermondsey, south London, revealed a photo of someone in protective gear outside their neighbour’s house.

Ipswich High School has been forced to deny local rumours of a coronavirus case within its ranks after someone in a church congregation made the claim

Patcham Nursing Home in Brighton has closed its doors to visitors amid fears a GP with coronavirus visited one of its 24 elderly residents last week

What we know about the Britons infected with coronavirus and the patients ill in the UK

Cases in the UK and where they are being cared for:

York and Newcastle: Two Chinese nationals who became ill while staying at Staycity Aparthotel in York on Wednesday January 29 are being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Brighton and London: The third person to be diagnosed in the UK was a businessman from Brighton who caught the infection while on a work trip in Singapore, then became ill in Brighton after travelling home via a chalet at the Les Contamines Montjoie ski resort in the French Alps. He flew back to the UK on Easyjet flight EZS8481 from Geneva to London Gatwick on January 28 and is now being treated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

France and London: A fourth adult, believed to be Dr Catriona Saynor, who was staying at the same chalet in France was diagnosed with the virus on Sunday, February 9, and is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London. 

Brighton and London: Four more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus in Brighton on Monday, February 10. They are thought to be linked to the Brighton businessman and caught the virus in France. They are being treated at the St Thomas’ and Royal Free hospitals in London.

Total: Eight people

British expats and holidaymakers outside the UK 

Majorca: A British father-of-two who stayed in the French Les Contamines Montjoieski ski resort tested positive after returning to his home in Majorca. His wife and two children are not ill.

France: Five British people became infected after coming into contact with the Brighton businessman. They include the French chalet’s owner, environmental consultant Bob Saynor, 48, and his nine-year-old son û relatives of the UK case Catriona Saynor. They are all in a French hospital. 

Japan: A British man on board a cruise ship docked at a port in Japan tested positive for coronavirus, Princess Cruises said. Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, posted on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with the virus. Believed to be on his honeymoon, Steele said he was not showing any symptoms but was being taken to hospital.

Total: Seven people

It is not clear who the dressed-up person is and they appear to be on their own, which would not be expected of a paramedic.

The anxious neighbour said: ‘It’s a bit unusual, really. I thought, what could that be, and then I wondered if it could be a potential infection.

‘It was just the one person who went into the flat, but they went in for quite a long time. I didn’t see them come out again.

‘I was keeping an eye out to see if any ambulances might turn up, but I didn’t see anything else.’

Southwark Council said there had been no cases of coronavirus in the borough.

Ipswich High School in Suffolk has been forced to deny rumours of a case being diagnosed at its school, which is reportedly popular with Chinese students.   

Nicola Griffiths, acting head of the 700 pupil-school where fees cost up to £33,000 a year, said: ‘We are not accepting any pupils from China and affected regions until the outbreak is contained.

‘At a local parish church service at the weekend a speaker unhelpfully announced to parishioners that the school has a suspected case of the virus. 

‘We have followed up with the church concerned, who are attempting to correct this error and contact the congregation to provide reassurances and we ask for your assistance in dispelling this rumour.’ 

And at another private school nearby that has Chinese pupils bosses have also moved to reassure parents and locals.

Sarah Stewart, of the 750-pupil Royal Hospital School near Ipswich said: ‘There have been no positive cases of nCoV at the Royal Hospital School. 

‘We do have a number of pupils from mainland China and other parts of the world but none of them have been in China or Hong Kong since the start of term which is over five weeks ago.’

A care home in Brighton has shut down amid fears a GP infected with coronavirus visited one of its 24 elderly residents last week.

Two GP surgeries there – Warmdene and Deneway – are closed because two members of staff have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

And a primary school in the seaside city, where six cases have been diagnosed, has said attendance is optional amid concerns a teacher may have been exposed to the disease. 

Patcham Nursing Home in the north of the city has closed its doors to visitors as a ‘precaution’ after the nearby County Oak Medical Centre, which runs both closed GP surgeries, was sealed off and cleaned by a team in hazmat suits after a member of medical staff tested positive for the virus. 

There have been eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK so far, and another 200 people are in quarantine after being evacuated from China

More than 43,000 people around the world have now been infected with the virus and 1,018 have died

Steve Walsh, a businessman from Brighton, has unknowingly passed on the coronavirus to at least 11 other people after catching it in Singapore but not becoming ill himself. He is in hospital in London

And this morning students at Bevendean Primary School were told they can stay at home if they want after it was revealed a teacher there is in ‘self-isolation’ over fears they caught the coronavirus from someone who came into contact with the city’s ‘super-spreader’. 

It comes after members of a yoga class attended by the coronavirus patient at the Cornerstone Community Centre were told to stay indoors and avoid interacting with people amid concerns they may have contracted the disease during the session.

Steve Walsh, a married 53-year-old scout leader and businessman, was today revealed by MailOnline as Brighton’s super-spreader who is feared to have infected at least 11 people in a fortnight before showing any symptoms.

Mr Walsh is in quarantine in a London hospital today after picking up the disease at a Singapore conference at the end of last month and coming home to Hove via a skiiing holiday in the Alps.


Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 1,000 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 43,000 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.

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.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

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 1,018 people out of a total of at least 43,112 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 that date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed, but also far more widespread. 

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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