Coronavirus: tests on 14 people in the UK all negative

Tests for coronavirus on people in the UK negative as death toll in China climbs to 26

Heathrow queue
Senior Conservatives urging cabinet to ditch plans for mandatory 14-day self-isolation for overseas arrivals
(Image credit: AFP)

Tests for the coronavirus on 14 people in the UK have come back negative, the chief medical officer has announced.

The BBC reports that all 14 of the patients had visited Wuhan - the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak - in the last two weeks, but have been found not to be carrying the disease.

The news comes after the government's emergency committee met to discuss the outbreak. According to Sky News, ministers from the Home Office, Foreign Office, and transport, education and communities departments were all summoned, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend.

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At least 26 people in China have died from the virus since the first case was identified in mid December, and more than 800 are confirmed to have been infected.

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The Chinese authorities have imposed travel restrictions in at least ten cities in central Hubei province in a bid to prevent the outbreak from spreading further - a move that has effectively quarantined more than 20 million people “in what is thought to be the largest ever operation of its kind”, says The Telegraph.

Officials have “grounded flights, put up roadblocks and closed train stations to prevent residents leaving Wuhan”, the newspaper adds.

Beijing’s Chinese New Year festivities were also cancelled, amid warnings to citizens to avoid public gatherings.

But despite the efforts to contain the outbreak, cases have been reported in the US, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called the outbreak a “rapidly developing situation” in which the “number of deaths and the number of cases is likely to be higher than those that have been confirmed so far”.

In a statement to the Commons on Thursday, Hancock said: “The chief medical officer has revised the risk to the UK population from ‘very low’ to ‘low’ and has concluded that while there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to Wuhan, as Heathrow Airport steps up efforts to monitor for symptoms among passengers arriving on flights from the city.

The virus is from the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus that swept through the world between 2002 and 2003. “That also originated in China and eventually infected around 8,000 people, killing 800,” says the i news site.

Public Health England says clinicians have been briefed on the new virus, covering initial detection and investigation of possible cases. An algorithm has been developed to support NHS 111 in identifying suspected potential cases.

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