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Twelve new Covid-19 cases confirmed in UK, bringing total to 35

The UK health secretary said shutting down cities was possible despite a “huge economic and social downside”.

A woman wearing a facemask on the London Underground.
A woman wearing a facemask on the London Underground.
Image: Ian Hinchcliffe/PA Images

Updated Mar 1st 2020, 2:29 PM

THE NUMBER OF confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK leapt to 35 after 12 new patients were identified in England.

UK Chief Medical Officer Professor, Chris Whitty, said three of the patients were close contacts of a known Covid-19 case that was transmitted within the UK – believed to be a Surrey resident.

Another new patient, from Essex, has no relevant travel to an affected area, Whitty said today.

He added investigations were ongoing as to whether the patient had contracted it “directly or indirectly” from an individual who had recently travelled abroad.

Of the eight remaining cases, six had recently travelled from Italy, while two had been in Iran.

These patients are from London, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire.

All of the newly identified cases are being investigated and health officials have begun tracing anyone who had close contact with them.

As of 9am on Sunday, more than 11,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK – with 35 confirmed as positive.

Shutting down 

The UK health secretary has not ruled out shutting down cities if the coronavirus outbreak escalates as he outlined a new “battle plan” by the British government.

Matt Hancock said despite a “huge economic and social downside”, following China’s lead and isolating UK cities if the situation worsens currently remains on the table.

He conceded it was “inevitable” that the deadly virus would continue to spread after three new cases were identified in the UK, including a staff member at an infant school.

On isolating entire cities, as Chinese authorities did with Wuhan, Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme: “There is clearly a huge economic and social downside to that.

“But we don’t take anything off the table at this stage because you have to make sure you have all the tools available if that is what is necessary.”

The Health Secretary confirmed that “population distancing measures”, such as banning public gatherings and cancelling football matches, could be considered by the Government, while closing schools may be “necessary”.

He said: “I’m not saying any of these are decisions we have taken but they are things we don’t rule out.”

2.50870808 Source: PA Graphics

Worldwide, about 87,000 people have been infected and nearly 3,000 people killed since the virus was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

China reported a fresh spike in infections today, with 573 new cases – the highest figure in a week after a dip. All but three of them were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. 

The virus has spread to more than 60 countries around the globe, prompting the World Health Organisation to raise its risk assessment to its highest level.

According to the most extensive study done so far, the novel coronavirus was benign in 80.9% of cases, “serious” in 13.8% and “critical” in 4.7%. The remaining 0.6% was not specified.

Part of the reason Covid-19 has been declared a public health emergency is due to the speed at which it has spread compared to other coronaviruses (like Sars and Mers) and the fact that there’s a lot about the disease we still don’t know – including how exactly it’s being transmitted.

‘War room’

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care announced on Sunday every department will have a ministerial lead on the virus, and a cross-Whitehall “war room” is being set up to roll out an enhanced public information campaign.

Emergency powers designed to restrict Covid-19 if it becomes endemic, due to be revealed this week, would only be “temporary”, said Hancock.

He added the NHS was ready to deal with further cases of coronavirus, with more than 5,000 emergency critical care beds available.

The number of emergency meetings convened by the UK government is to be increased, which comes amid criticism of Boris Johnson for failing to lead a Cobra contingencies committee on the outbreak until tomorrow.

2.50870922 Hancock said there would be a ‘huge economic and social downside’ to isolating whole cities Source: Jeff Overs/BBC

A pub in Haslemere, Surrey, has been closed until further notice for deep cleaning after a customer “tested positive for coronavirus”.

A patient in the county was confirmed as the first to catch the illness within the UK on Friday.

The landlords of the Prince of Wales pub said on Facebook that they had no symptoms of the virus and that it was a “precautionary measure only”.

Source: The Prince Of Wales - Nick & Becky/Facebook

International reaction

It came as Donald Trump banned travel to Iran after America reported its first death from the virus.

The US president added that he was considering additional restrictions, including closing the border with Mexico in response to the outbreak.

Elsewhere, the husband of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe believes she has contracted coronavirus at the prison where she is being held.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife has repeatedly asked to be tested for the virus at the Evin prison in Tehran after suffering from a “strange cold”.

Although there are currently no confirmed cases at the prison, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across Iran – with at least 54 dead amid 978 patients identified.

2.49784353 Richard Ratcliffe fears his wife has contracted coronavirus Source: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has called on the Iranian government to “immediately allow” health professionals into the prison to assess British-Iranian dual nationals.

Holiday operator Tui said yesterday evening it would be making arrangements for Britons at a coronavirus-stricken hotel in Tenerife who test negative to return to the UK.

Around 160 Britons were among hundreds of guests put into quarantine at the four-star H10 Costa Adeje Palace after at least four holidaymakers were diagnosed with Covid-19.

Spanish authorities have since said the risk of infection for any Britons staying at the hotel was low, although Public Health England (PHE) advised anyone travelling back to self-isolate until 10 March.

It comes amid reports that a fifth man at the hotel has tested positive.

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