Incident team set up to deal with Scots coronavirus threat

The Scottish Government earlier confirmed that five people were being examined.

Virus: The death toll in China has risen to 26 with 830 cases confirmed.
Virus: The death toll in China has risen to 26 with 830 cases confirmed.

An incident team has been set up in Scotland as five people are tested for Chinese coronavirus.

Fourteen people across the UK have been tested, as the health secretary said there was an “increased likelihood” of cases occurring.

The UK Government’s emergency committee Cobra convened at midday on Friday to discuss the outbreak.

Senior ministers attended but there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the UK, the Prime Minister’s spokesman announced.

The Scottish Government had earlier confirmed that five Chinese nationals were being examined after presenting with symptoms of the illness.

On Friday afternoon, it was revealed that one patient in Glasgow and another in Edinburgh had tested negative.

Heathrow Airport: Masked travellers arriving from China.

While none of the UK cases has been confirmed as the virus so far, two of those being tested in Scotland had been diagnosed with influenza after travelling to Wuhan, China.

They all travelled to Scotland from Wuhan, where the outbreak is thought to have originated, within the past two weeks, and were showing symptoms of respiratory trouble, a red flag for the virus.

Meanwhile, the death toll in China has risen to 26 with 830 cases confirmed, the country’s National Health Commission said.

Downing Street said four suspected cases in Scotland were believed to involve Chinese nationals.

It comes after infections expert Professor Jurgen Haas claimed there would likely be “many more cases” around the country, while health secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS is “ready to respond appropriately” to any cases that emerge in the UK.

In a statement to the Commons on Thursday, Mr Hancock said while “there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them”.

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was “too early” to declare an international public health emergency over the outbreak “given its restrictive and binary nature”.

Speaking at a press conference, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said: “Make no mistake, this is though an emergency in China.

“But it has not yet become a global health emergency.

“It may yet become one.”

Hospital: Five people have been examined in Scotland.

Other cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

Dr Tedros said: “We know that most of those who have died had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, that weakened their immune systems.

“We know that there is human-to-human transmission in China, but for now it appears limited to family groups and health workers caring for infected patients.

“At this time, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“There is still a lot we don’t know. We don’t know the source of this virus, we don’t understand how easily it spreads and we don’t fully understand its clinical features or severity.”

Peter Piot, professor of global health and director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said there were still “many missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle”, adding: “Over the coming days and weeks we will know much more, but there cannot be any complacency as to the need for global action.

“The good news is that the data to date suggest that this virus may have a lower mortality than Sars, we have a diagnostic test and there is greater transparency than decades gone by.

“And that is essential because you cannot deal with a potential pandemic in one country alone.”

On Thursday, Professor Haas, head of infection medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have currently three cases of suspected Wuhan coronavirus in Edinburgh and as far as I understand one case in Glasgow.”

He said the cases emerged overnight, adding: “The situation will be pretty similar in pretty much all UK cities with a large number of Chinese students.

“It’s not too surprising. My suspicion is that there will probably be many more cases in many other cities in the UK.

“None of the cases I know of have been confirmed.”

He said there was only one laboratory testing for the virus, operated by Public Health England (PHE).

The professor said the cases had been flagged up through the PHE infection guidelines, as they travelled to Wuhan within the last 14 days and were showing signs of respiratory symptoms.

The Chinese government has effectively locked down Wuhan, cancelling planes and trains there and in the nearby city of Huanggang.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland and the risk to the Scottish public remains low.

“Following travel to Wuhan, China, two people confirmed as diagnosed with influenza are now being tested for Wuhan Novel Coronavirus as a precautionary measure only.

“Three further people are also undergoing testing on a similar precautionary basis.

“As the situation develops we will update should there be any confirmed cases of coronavirus, rather than provide a running update on cases being considered on a precautionary basis.

“We are co-orientating with Health Protection Scotland a daily Incident Management Team to continue to monitor the situation as it develops, including on the number of any potential cases going forward.”

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