Two confirmed cases of coronavirus are in UK, both from same family
Infected pair being treated at specialist facility in Newcastle, and may have stayed in York
Experts ‘are using tried and tested infection control procedures’ to prevent virus spread
Medical team working to trace anyone who’s been in contacted with infected pair
More than 80 Britons were flown back to UK from Wuhan last week, landing on Friday
Experts say anyone arriving in UK from China and showing symptoms should ‘self-isolate’
Virgin Atlantic suspends flights between Britain and China over virus fears
Two patients in England have tested positive for coronavirus and are being treated at a hospital in Newcastle, as 83 British people arrived back from a repatriation flight from Wuhan.
The two people – the first confirmed cases in the UK – are members of the same family.
It has also been confirmed they are being treated at an infectious disease unit in Newcastle but medical chiefs declined to say what condition the two patients are in, or if they had travelled to or come from China.
The development comes as the World Health Organisation officially declared the deadly virus a “public health emergency of international concern”.
A flight carrying 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals landed at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, this afternoon after being evacuated from Wuhan – the centre of the outbreak.
Pictures show the passengers leaving the aeroplane with ambulances waiting.
The two Newcastle patients are in a high-consequence infectious disease unit in the city.
The BBC has reported that the two people were staying in a hotel in Yorkshire, but the hotel they were said to have stayed in – Staycity York – said health chiefs had not been in recent contact.
Tourists at the hotel called paramedics on Thursday after one fell ill, and the rooms they stayed in were sealed off and set to be deep-cleaned today.
A StayCity York spokesperson said: “We're talking to Public Health England and they certainly haven't confirmed any of the facts in that the BBC is reporting.”
An outbreak investigation team has been formed to trace anyone who has been in contact with the pair to prevent the illness spreading.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said on Friday: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.
“We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”
Speaking later on Friday, he insisted the cases do not increase the risk from the virus to the UK.
He said: “The two cases coming in today do not increase the risk to the UK.
“The risk comes from the situation in China going out of control despite best efforts by the Chinese government and spreading more widely. So, that is the thing for which we are planning, that is the risk.”
The virus is “moderately transmissible” and has a mortality rate of about 2% currently, he added, which compares with Ebola’s 70% mortality rate and Sars’ 10% mortality rate.
“Nevertheless, if we got very large numbers that is obviously a concern and this would be something we would have to take very seriously,” he added.
Anyone who comes to the UK from anywhere in China and shows any symptoms associated with the coronavirus should “self-isolate” for 14 days, Prof Whitty said.
He added that the widening of previous advice was a planned change and is not related to the two confirmed cases.
“If people from China mainland have any symptoms they should self-isolate for 14 days after they have come back from China,” he said at a briefing on Friday.
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It has also emerged that some British people in Wuhan due to fly on the repatriation flight today declined to go after being told Chinese nationals in their family could not join them.
That decision was reversed hours before the plane took off, meaning some were unable to then make it to the airport in time.
A British teacher, who asked not to be named, was reported by the Press Association as saying she stayed behind because her husband in a Chinese national and couldn’t join her.
She said she had not been told by the Foreign Office about the change in policy, only finding out about it from other British expats.
More to follow...