UK chief medical officers have raised the coronavirus (COVID-19) risk to 'moderate', as the number of citizens testing positive has reached 13.
At the weekend, four new patients in England tested positive for COVID-19 due to the virus being passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship. These patients are being transferred from Arrowe Park to specialist NHS infection centres.
If more cases are confirmed in the UK, it will be announced as soon as possible by the chief medical officer of the affected country.
As of 23 February (Sunday), a total of 6,324 people have been tested in the UK, of which 6,315 were confirmed negative and nine positive. These figures do not yet include the confirmed cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK chief medical officers have raised the risk to the public from 'low' to 'moderate'.
In addition, based on the scientific advice of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) the UK chief medical officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.
The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (PHE) have confirmed they are carrying out enhanced monitoring of direct flights from these areas. Passengers will be told how to report any symptoms they develop during the flight, at the time of arrival, or after leaving the airport.
The UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease. Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to Wuhan have been advised to submit samples to PHE for testing. Individuals should be treated in isolation.
With the first reported publication of the genome sequence of COVID-19, PHE was able to rapidly develop further specific tests for this virus, working with WHO and global network of laboratories.
When a clinician suspects COVID-19, they take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory samples, package and send them safely to PHE Colindale. PHE can provide a laboratory result from this specific virus on the same working day.
PHE also has the capability to sequence the viral genome and compare this to published sequences from China, if a case occurs. This will provide valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and allow an improved understanding of how it spreads.
PHE has updated its guidance: COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features.