Travel restrictions may include turning away any passenger who has visited China – or the infected city of Wuhan where the disease has spawned – in the past 14 days. Briton David Abel is one of the 3,000 passengers trapped on the Diamond Princess, who has become somewhat of a national celebrity for his colourful updates as 10 passengers have since tested positive for the killer bug. With the worldwide death toll now 500, hospitals have been told to create “priority assessment pods” for people with suspected coronavirus.
The Government said it was unlikely the new travel restrictions would come into play until next week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this evening chair an emergency COBRA meeting.
It comes as a third person in the UK has tested positive for coronavirus, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty said the person, who contracted the virus in Asia but not in mainland China, is currently being transferred to an infectious diseases centre for treatment.
Prof Whitty did not say which country the patient was in when they caught coronavirus, or whether it was caught directly from someone who had been in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak.
The patient is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and is being transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, where there is an infectious diseases unit.
Two other patients are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle upon Tyne.
In a statement, Prof Whitty said: “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.”
The University of Sussex, which has a large campus on the outskirts of Brighton, said in a statement the new case was not a student or member of staff from the university.
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Health officials are not understood to be “contact tracing” people on any Asia-UK flight the latest coronavirus sufferer may have travelled on.
The Government has also announced that people with recent travel to a number of countries in Asia who are back in the UK and develop symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call NHS 111 for advice.
Until now, this advice only related to people from Wuhan in China. Anyone with symptoms will be tested for coronavirus.
Prof Whitty said: “We knew this ratchet up might well happen and this is the moment where we feel it’s prudent to make this shift.”
He said: “What we have got is a situation where very high risk remains in Wuhan and Hubei, a high risk in the rest of China, but much lower than in Wuhan and Hubei and then a much smaller risk in a number of countries, and unsurprisingly countries where the greatest risk is in terms of new cases are the ones which have the greatest international traffic with China, and that is exactly as you would expect.”
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He said there is current no evidence of sustained person-to-person onward transmission of the virus outside China.
Earlier, the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned against “rumours and panic” over coronavirus after concerns were raised that Boris Johnson has not offered a personal message of support to China’s leaders.