The global outbreak of coronavirus has now reached the UK, as two people from the same family have reportedly tested positive.
The virus has killed at least 213 people in China and there are now over 7,700 confirmed cases across the country, with more than 12,000 suspected cases, according to the World Health Organisation. There are reportedly a further 98 cases across 18 other countries.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness spread through direct contact with an infected person. It can cause a range of symptoms depending on severity, according to the National Health Service (NHS), including feeling tired, difficulty breathing, a high temperature, a cough, and pneumonia in the more severe cases.
The two patients are reportedly being treated by the NHS at a specialist centre in Newcastle.
Prof. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, announced the new cases on Friday.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS case, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus,” Whitty said in a statement.
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately,” he added. “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.”
Meanwhile Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said that the chances of further spread were “minimal” as the cases were caught early.
The NHS also highlights that the risk of getting the illness in the UK is low, but gives advice for those who have returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan — where the outbreak began.
Currently, 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals are flying back to the UK from Wuhan, according to the BBC, with the flight due to land in Oxfordshire on Friday afternoon. Passengers will then be taken to a hospital on the Wirral and quarantined for two weeks.
It comes just one day after the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency — with the number of cases worldwide now surpassing those of the SARS epidemic of 2003.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva, highlighting the concern that the virus could spread to countries without strong health systems.
He added that the virus was an “unprecedented outbreak” that has been met with an “unprecedented response.”
The WHO has reportedly previously declared five global public health emergencies: swine flu in 2009; polio in 2014; Zika in 2016; and Ebola in 2014 and 2019.