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UK still free of coronavirus cases

Patients with symptoms advised to call GP rather than attend practice

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 27 January 2020

The UK has no confirmed cases of coronavirus but authorities and doctors’ leaders are still urging caution over how the viral infection that originated in Wuhan in China is handled.

The government confirmed at the weekend that as of 26 January, a total of 52 UK tests had concluded, of which 52 were confirmed negative and none positive.

Therefore there were currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public was low. Nevertheless, the government was monitoring the situation closely and would continue to work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and international community.

Patients concerned that they might have symptoms of the infection have been advised by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to contact GP receptionists over the phone before attending GP practices.

College chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “We're closely monitoring updates from relevant authorities, such as Public Health England (PHE). The current threat to the UK is considered low, and NHS England and PHE are assuring patients that there are robust arrangements in place to manage the emerging situation.

“Patients should not be alarmed as it is still more likely that anyone with flu-like symptoms will have the flu.

“The most important thing is that any patient who thinks they may have symptoms should not try to attend a GP appointment or hospital emergency departments in person. We advise them to let the GP receptionist know if they have recently travelled to Wuhan, China before a decision is taken by the GP as to where the patient will be seen.”

If a patient arrived at a GP surgery with potential symptoms and who had recently travelled to an affected area, GPs should try to place them in isolation, where possible, he added, recommending that GPs follow the recently issued PHE guidelines.

“The [coronavirus] virus is airborne and therefore spread in a similar way to colds and flu. Currently, the incubation period of this virus is thought to be five days. Symptoms include high temperatures, fatigue, headaches, chills and pains.”

The government said it had introduced advanced monitoring at airports with direct flights from China and a team of public health experts had been established in Heathrow to support anyone travelling in from China who felt unwell.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “COBR [Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms] met today to discuss the situation in Wuhan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. I updated on the current situation, the preparedness of the NHS, and possible next steps.

“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. We have tried and tested measures in place to respond. The UK is well prepared for these types of incidents, with excellent readiness against infectious diseases.

“We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track record of managing new forms of infectious disease.”

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