Government tells people flying from Asia to 'call NHS if you're ill'

British scientists urge blanket BAN on travellers from Asia until there is a coronavirus vaccine as death toll hits 638 – amid backlash at government’s ‘weak’ advice for passengers to just ‘call NHS 111 if you feel ill’

  • UK Government has issued new travel advice tonight for Britons flying back
  • Any travellers experiencing symptoms should call NHS if returning from China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau
  • Comes amid searing criticism of government for not acting with enough haste
  • At least 16 nations around the world have already banned travellers from China
  • Outbreak has so far claimed 566 lives and infected almost 30,000 worldwide

Leading scientists have today called for a blanket ban on travellers from Asia to buy Britain valuable time to prepare a vaccine against the killer coronavirus that is rapidly sweeping the world.

Virologists argue travel restrictions – such as the ban on passengers from mainland China in the US, Australia and New Zealand – are ‘worth implementing’ to contain the spread of the SARS-like infection.

The calls to ramp up measures come amid backlash at the Government’s response to the outbreak. Last night it issued travel advice, warning travellers from nine Asian countries to phone NHS 111 and quarantine themselves if they feel ill.

Ministers announced the upgraded advice after a third case of the coronavirus was yesterday confirmed on British soil in a businessman who had not visited mainland China. 

He is thought to be in his 40s or 50s and attended a business conference in Singapore before flying back to over the weekend Brighton and suffering flu-like symptoms. 

But furious Brits have slammed the ‘weak’ measures to prevent more cases on UK soil, urging ministers to shut the border and saying ‘serious guidance is needed’. Others have questioned if it’s time to start wearing face masks. 

It comes after Alan Steel, from Wolverhampton, became the second confirmed UK national to be diagnosed with the lethal disease after catching it on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan. 

Mr Steel was hauled off the Diamond Princess cruise liner and separated from his wife Wendy at Yokohama Bay this morning and whisked into quarantine in the Asian nation after testing positive for corona despite not yet showing any symptoms.

Almost 640 people have died from the coronavirus, which can be spread through coughs, sneezes and touching contaminated surfaces. Figures also show more than 31,000 cases have been recorded in 28 countries and territories around the world. 

In other developments to the escalating outbreak today: 

  • A British tourist was hauled off a cruise liner and taken to hospital in after testing positive for on his honeymoon
  • Officials have launched a frantic appeal for anyone who has spent 15 minutes with Britain’s third coronavirus patient – but won’t reveal who he is
  • Authorities have revealed the British victim caught the deadly virus at a business conference in a five-star hotel in Singapore
  • Local media reports the conference was held by a British-based company which provides ‘stable gas measurements’

The UK’s third coronavirus patient went to A&E at the Royal Sussex in Brighton on Sunday night after suffering from flu-like symptoms before being rushed to Guy’s Hospital in London. It comes almost a week after two Chinese nationals, a University of York student and his mother, were confirmed to have the lethal virus and they have been quarantined at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Meanwhile 93 others are quarantined on the Wirral after being evacuated from Wuhan – while another among them was rushed to a hospital in Oxford

The patient went to A&E at the Royal Sussex in Brighton after suffering from flu-like symptoms before being transferred to Guy’s Hospital in London (pictured)

Saudi Arabia yesterday became the 16th nation to ban travellers from coronavirus-hit China from entering the country

Almost 640 people have died from the coronavirus, which can be spread through coughs, sneezes and touching contaminated surfaces. Figures also show more than 31,000 cases have been recorded in 28 countries and territories around the world 

A British tourist was today hauled off a cruise liner and taken to hospital in Japan after testing positive for coronavirus on his honeymoon.

Alan Steele was separated from his new wife Wendy and taken off the Diamond Princess after learning his test results in Yokohama Bay today.

Mr Steele said he was not yet showing symptoms of the virus and hopes he may just be a ‘carrier’ but faces a lengthy quarantine in hospital on the mainland. 

Mr Steele was one of 41 people who learned they had the virus after 171 remaining test results came back on Friday, trebling the ship’s total of virus patients from 20 to 61.

The newly diagnosed also include 21 Japanese nationals, as well as eight Americans, five Canadians, five Australians and an Argentine.

The huge leap in virus cases has added to concerns among the ship’s 2,600 passengers that they are being kept in the dark about the crisis.

One American passenger told a journalist she was ‘scared… I don’t want to leave this ship in a box.’

Passengers who show symptoms such as fever may now face additional testing, and some guests fear that the two-week quarantine – which is only three days old – could be extended even further. 

Britain’s leading virologists and infectious disease specialists met in London today to discuss the coronavirus outbreak at a Science Media Centre briefing. 

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The value of a travel ban is to give us time for vaccinologists to develop a vaccine, manufacture them and distribute them.’

But at the same briefing, experts admitted a vaccine to protect millions against the virus will not be ready until end of this year, at the earliest. 

Professor John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, agreed that travel restrictions would ‘buy us valuable time’. 

He added that such a measure would be ‘worth implementing if we can’ – but experts agreed travel bans would be needed before the virus takes hold in other countries, especially ones neighbouring China.  

Scores of travellers from China and other coronavirus-hit parts of Asia have been pouring into Britain every day without being properly tested for the infection.

One British man who got his family on the ‘last available Air China flight to UK’ told how they simply strolled through Heathrow unchecked.

Government sources have for days suggested that the UK is on the brink of declaring a ban on arrivals from China, a measure wanted by furious Brits on social media. 

But ministers have yet to announce any hard ban – despite 16 other countries around the world doing so, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. 

Furious Brits have today told the Government that ‘serious guidance is needed’. Jon Noble asked on Twitter: ‘Is it time to start wearing face masks in the UK?’

Debby Brooker said: ‘Why is this country being so weak about letting people in this country travelling from Asia? 16 other countries have banned this!’

And discussing other countries banning travellers from China, Ralph Roberts asked: ‘What is Matt Hancock waiting for?’ 

The Grand Hyatt hotel (interior inside pictured) held a business gathering for more than 100 internationals between January 20 and 22, and has been linked to confirmed cases of the deadly virus in three countries since

Furious Brits have today told the Government that ‘serious guidance is needed’. Jon Noble asked on Twitter: ‘Is it time to start wearing face masks in the UK?’

Debby Brooker said: ‘Why is this country being so weak about letting people in this country travelling from Asia? 16 other countries have banned this!’

And discussing other countries banning travellers from China, Ralph Roberts asked: ‘What is Matt Hancock waiting for?’

Alan Steele (pictured with his new wife Wendy) was today taken off the Diamond Princess and sent to hospital on the mainland after testing positive for the virus

A team of health workers in hazmat suits on the shore in Yokohama today where Japanese authorities said the tally of coronavirus patients on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship had risen to 61

Health workers wearing protective suits carry bags to an ambulance near the cruise ship Diamond Princess today, which is anchored and being held in quarantine near Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama



The US has temporarily banned any non-US citizens who have been to China in the past two weeks from entering America. 


Australia has banned entry for any Chinese travellers or foreign passengers who been to China within the last 14 days or even have passed through the mainland during a layover.


New Zealand has closed its borders to any foreigners arriving from China after February 2, including passengers who passed through in transit.


Japan has barred entry for anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus and no travellers from Wuhan are allowed to enter – even if they don’t have symptoms.


Mongolian citizens have until February 6 to return to their home country if they want to. Travellers from China – whether they are Chinese or not – are not allowed to enter the country.


North Korea was one of the first countries to completely shut its borders to travellers and flights from China, introducing the measure on January 21.


Officials have suspended all forms of passenger travel to and from neighbouring China. The country has also suspended the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens.


Authorities have decided to ban entry to all foreign nationals who have visited mainland China in the past two weeks. 


Singapore has banned travellers who have been to mainland China in the past 14 days. 


South Korea has banned all foreign travellers who have passed through Wuhan in the past 14 days.


Authorities banned all travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau – except for Filipino citizens and holders of permanent residency visas.


Papua New Guinea has shut its air and seaports to all foreign travellers from Asia. Its land border with West Papua has also been closed.


Saudi Arabia has banned travellers from coronavirus-hit China entering the country. The kingdom suggested it would tear up the passports of anyone who defied the ban.  


Iraq has banned entry for all foreign nationals travelling from China.


Guatemala has banned non-resident travellers who had been to China in the past two weeks.


Trinidad & Tobago have banned non-resident travellers who had been to China in the past two weeks.

The demand for more action comes after officials yesterday revealed a third case of coronavirus had been diagnosed on British soil.

The unidentified patient flew into the UK from Singapore and had visited mainland China at all. The patient is believed to be a British businessman in his 40s or 50s. 

Officials upgraded travel advice to say any travellers coming from other countries in Asia who feel ill should shut themselves away at home and call 111 immediately – this advice had previously only applied to people who had been to Wuhan. 

Of the countries the guidance applies to, only Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and South Korea have recorded at least 20 cases. Macau – the Chinese gambling hub – has recorded only 10 cases, which is less than Australia (15), Germany (13) and the US (12).

The Government said the countries had been picked because of ‘the volume of air travel from affected areas, understanding of other travel routes and number of reported cases’. 

Sources say the patient was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton before being whisked off to the specialist Guy’s Hospital in London.

Singapore’s Health Ministry today confirmed that Britain’s third coronavirus victim visited a five star £1,000-a-night Singapore hotel on a business trip.

At least three other Asian delegates have also caught the disease after attending the same conference. 

The Grand Hyatt hotel held a business gathering for more than 100 internationals between January 20 and 22.    

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now launched an investigation into the conference at The Grand Hyatt, situated in a busy shopping district.

At least four members of staff are said to be suspected cases and have been isolated for tests. Rooms are urgently being disinfected – but it is not clear if the hotel has been closed.

The spate of cases has driven further fears that human to human transmission is stronger than suspected, and the virus is now circulating in higher numbers than previously thought outside of the mainland. 

Singapore – one of the worst hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) – has reported 30 cases of coronavirus so far, including some local transmission cases.  

The hunt is now on for anyone who spent more than 15 minutes with the British businessman.  

Officials repeatedly refused to give away any more details about the man, who is thought to be in his 40s or 50s, and now officials are rushing to track down anyone who has come into close contact.  

The US announced last week it was temporarily barring entry to foreign nationals, other than immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents, who have travelled in China within the last 14 days.

Australia and New Zealand have imposed the same ban, while Japan is refusing entry to anyone travelling from Wuhan, regardless of whether they have symptoms.   

But the UK is still bound to EU immigration laws and obligated to fall in line with any decisions on travel restrictions made by the bloc, despite having technically left on January 31. 

Ministers are said to be debating whether or not to impose the ban anyway, but Government sources say it would be pointless if Brussels does not follow suit.

An empty waiting room in a hospital in Hong Kong, where medical staff have been on strike for four days demanding government closes the border with China

Disinfection workers in protective gear sterilize the Tong-in Market in Seoul amid fears of the killer coronavirus spreading throughout South Korea

Passengers could still enter Britain indirectly via another EU state due to freedom of movement rules. 

‘What is the point in one of you banning flights if none of the others are going to do it?’ a senior government source told MailOnline on Wednesday. ‘Because you just get in by an indirect route.’  

And Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: ‘We can monitor flights from China landing back in the UK but we can’t monitor those landing from China in the rest of Europe. EU freedom of movement does make us more vulnerable.’ 

It comes after it was announced that a British honeymooner is among 41 new coronavirus patients on board a quarantined cruise ship in Japan, it has emerged today.

Alan Steele was today taken off the Diamond Princess and sent to hospital on the mainland after testing positive for the virus.

Mr Steele said today he was not yet showing symptoms of the virus but faces a lengthy quarantine away from his new wife Wendy.

Japan’s health minister announced 41 new cases from the 171 remaining test results today after medics screened thousands of passengers on board the Diamond Princess earlier this week. A total of 61 cases have now been confirmed on the cruise ship.  

The newly diagnosed also include 21 Japanese nationals, as well as eight Americans, five Canadians, five Australians and an Argentine.  

It comes after China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, yesterday criticised the UK’s plea for all 30,000 of its citizens in the mainland to come home.

He said it was an overreaction and a disregard of World Health Organisation (WHO) advice – which says travel bans can prove disruptive.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus has soared since late January. The true toll is expected to be considerably higher as many may have such mild symptoms they never get diagnosed

Deaths have also soared since the end of January, with more than 640 fatalities now recorded

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don’t realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly


What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – 638 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who catch the Wuhan coronavirus may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.


Mr Xiaoming said: ‘[There] should be no panic, no overreaction. We advise the British side to take professional advice of WHO.

‘They told us they will follow WHO’s advice. It seems to me the words do not match with the deeds.

‘Life is still normal in most parts of China so I do say again in private and public I hope the British Government and public take an objective, cool-headed view of what is going on. We should support each other rather than weaken the other’s efforts.’ 

It comes after British scientists claimed to have made a breakthrough in the race against time for a vaccine to protect millions against the killer coronavirus. 

Infection specialist Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, revealed his team plan to begin trials of their experimental jab on animals next week.

The team will then move onto humans in the summer, if they can achieve funding and that early tests are successful.

Researchers across the world are desperately trying to find a vaccine against the SARS-like infection, which can cause pneumonia. 

The current record time for producing a vaccine is for Zika, which took academics seven months to go from the lab to human trials. 

Doctors fear if it takes that long this time, the unnamed coronavirus could already have swept the globe.  

Professor Shattock told Sky News that standard approaches to creating a vaccine can take between two and three years before it gets ‘to the clinic’.

But he added: ‘We have gone from that sequence to generating a candidate in the laboratory in 14 days.

‘And we will have it in animal models by the beginning of next week. We’ve short-tracked that part. 

‘The next phase will be to move that from early animal testing into the first human studies.’ 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday called for countries around the world to pull together more than half a billion pounds to stop China’s coronavirus. 

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director of the organisation, yesterday held a conference at which he called for donations totalling £521million ($675m).

More than 31,000 people have now been infected with the coronavirus, and almost 640 have died. 

The WHO money will be used for ‘frontline efforts’ to help countries contain the virus and to fund scientists trying to create a vaccine, as well as helping poor countries – potentially African nations – to prepare for possible infections.

Dr Ghebreyesus’s rallying call came after a leading statistician in the UK predicts another 3,000 people in China could die of the virus by the end of the month. 

Dr Brian Jarman, an retired professor from Imperial College London and former president of the British Medical Association, used statistics to predict how the outbreak could progress over the next three weeks.

He worked out how many new cases are being diagnosed each day and the rate at which this is increasing, then applied it as a formula to the next 22 days.

A worker in a hazmat suit drives a fork lift truck to load supplies on to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama today

Masked passengers are seen on the deck of the ship today, where passengers in windowless inside cabins have been allowed only onto open decks briefly under strict conditions

A woman holds a Japanese flag that reads ‘shortage of medicine’ on the cruise ship Diamond Princess as another 41 people tested positive for the deadly coronavirus on Friday

Dr Jarman found that there could be 31,810 cases and 636 deaths by the end of February 6. By February 13, this could rise to 67,409 cases and 1,304 deaths.

By February 20, 116,444 cases and 2,214 deaths and, by February 29, 199,230 cases and 3,741 deaths.

The calculations assume that the outbreak will continue to escalate at its current rate but then gradually slows down over the coming weeks. 

He said predicting any further ahead in the same way would be inaccurate because the virus should soon start to slow down naturally. 

Dr Jarman told MailOnline: ‘I find it very worrying both medically, because the infection seems to have a relatively long incubation period and therefore people are infective for a longer time before they realise they may have the disease, and financially because China is so important to the world economy.’

It is thought the third coronavirus patient was diagnosed at the Royal Sussex in Brighton (pictured) after flying in from outside China

It comes almost a week after two Chinese nationals, a University of York student and his mother, were confirmed to have the lethal virus in York (pictured: the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where the patients were taken)

Britain’s third coronavirus victim caught deadly virus at five-star hotel that is Singapore’s outbreak ground zero after three other international delegates at conference caught the disease. The Grand Hyatt hotel (pictured) held a business gathering for more than 100 internationals in mid-January 

Three other international delegates at the same conference caught the disease. Pictured, a swimming pool at the hotel

A spokesman for the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Gerald Kheng, said the hotel had been deep cleaned after it was first informed of the incident by Singapore’s health ministry on Tuesday. Since then, four local staff were referred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases suspected of having the disease 

After returning from a trip to Singapore, where he stayed at the Grand Hyatt (pictured), the British man took himself to hospital with coronavirus symptoms. Health officials are not believed to be ‘contact tracing’ people on any Asia-UK flight he may have travelled on

What do we know about the Wuhan coronavirus? 

Revealed: The UK Government’s ‘shambolic’ response to the outbreak so far 

The Foreign Office has been accused of poor organisation during the coronavirus outbreak and of leaving British citizens in China to ‘fend for themselves’. 

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: ‘From the very start of this outbreak, the government’s response has been a total shambles, and now they appear to be telling British nationals in China simply to fend for themselves in terms of getting out of the country.

‘How on earth has the Foreign Office not got plans and protocols in place for how these crises are managed?’ 

Her comment followed a slew of shortcomings over the past two weeks that included:

Dragging its feet before chartering an airlift

When the epidemic started to ramp up in late January, the US, France and Japan all evacuated hundreds of citizens on chartered planes.

Spain, Portugal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Australia and India all announced plans to rescue expats before Britain did.

It wasn’t until January 30 that the first wave of British nationals were flown home.

Giving just two hours’ notice before evacuating

When the dithering Government finally organised the airlift, it gave stranded Britons just two hours’ notice before taking off.

This made it impossible for some citizens to make it to the airport on time because Wuhan was on lockdown, with public transport banned.

Leaving expats to make their own way to the airport

The Foreign Office made no attempt to arrange buses or taxis to transport British citizens to Wuhan airport.

With the city completely sealed off, this reportedly made it impossible for Britons in the wider Hubei province to make the flight.

British nationals told to abandon their loved ones

Desperate expats were told there were no guarantees their Chinese partners or children would get on the rescue plane because Beijing was stopping its own citizens from leaving. 

Bus drivers did not wear masks

Coach drivers who picked up the evacuees from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire when they landed from Wuhan were photographed without any protective gear.

It came despite the highly contagious virus being able to spread via a simple cough or sneeze, or by living on inanimate objects such as door handles and seats.

The photos were even more jarring because medics in full hazmat suits were seen directly beside the bus drivers.

Hotel with first confirmed cases allowed to operate as normal

The first two patients to have confirmed coronavirus in the UK were staying in the Staycity hotel in York.

The budget hotel said it was ‘left in the dark’ by the Government who refused to tell it whether its customers had in fact been infected with the disease.

The hotel was told to ‘operate as normal’ but keep the room the patients were staying in shut and their belongings inside.

This meant dozens of unwitting customers continued to stay and touch door knobs, cutlery and counter tops that may have been handled by the infected pair.

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 566 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 28,200 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

A neighbour claimed they marched a young woman outside the property at 7.20pm and loaded her into the back of the van

Medics in full white protective suits and face masks were filmed leaving a residential home in York in an ambulance on Tuesday night



A University of York student and his mother became the first two confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus on British soil when they were diagnosed on January 31. But neither have been named.

Health officials repeatedly refused to give any details about the two cases, citing ‘patient confidentially’, and knocked back questions about where and when they entered Britain.

But MailOnline later that same day revealed the pair had stayed at a budget hotel in York.

Sources at the Staycity apart-hotel said the pair – who had been whisked away by paramedics on January 31 – never returned or collected their suitcases, clothing or toiletries. 

It is thought their toiletries remain sealed in their room. Officials have already paid for a sterilisation company to disinfect the room the pair stayed in, as well as surrounding ones. It is not clear if they are open again but the £49-a-night hotel is still operating. 

Sources then confirmed that both the infected patients had been whisked off to quarantine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, one of four specialist centres in the UK set-up to treat contagious airborne infections. The patients are still there being treated.

The University of York confirmed one of the patients was a student on February 1. In hope of quashing fears, it said the infected student had not stepped foot on campus before or after he caught the virus. It was later revealed that the second patient was his mother.


The third case was a businessman who visited a five star £1,000-a-night Singapore hotel on a business trip. At least three other Asian delegates have caught the disease after attending the same conference. 

The Grand Hyatt hotel held a business gathering for more than 100 internationals between January 20 and 22, and has been linked to confirmed cases of the deadly virus in three countries since. 

The middle-aged British man was the first person with coronavirus in the UK who had not visited China, where the outbreak is centred. He took himself to A&E at the Royal Sussex in Brighton on Sunday, February  1, after returning from Singapore recently. 

He was suffering from flu-like symptoms before being rushed 55 miles to a specialist infectious diseases unit at Guy’s Hospital in London this morning where he will remain quarantined for at least two weeks. 

Only four hospitals in England are equipped with these wards, two of which are in the capital – the Royal Free and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. The others are in Newcastle and Liverpool.

Health officials have launched a frantic appeal for ‘anyone who has spent 15 minutes’ with Britain’s third coronavirus patient – but won’t reveal who he is. Officials have so far refused to offer any more details.  

There may have been an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human, researchers suggested, although details of this are less clear.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.




























































In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 566 people out of a total of at least 28,000 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.


At least three Asian businessmen who attended a meeting of more than 100 international delegates at a Singapore hotel have contracted coronavirus, while others are showing symptoms, authorities said on Wednesday.

The cases are further evidence the virus is now spreading through human-to-human contact outside China.

Malaysia on Tuesday said its first infected citizen – a 41-year-old man – had attended the meeting, which included delegations from China where the virus originated, in mid-January.

South Korea also reported two confirmed cases of its citizens who visited the same business conference in Singapore on Wednesday.

The cases are linked to a company business meeting involving 109 participants at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel on Jan 20-22, which included 94 overseas participants, Singapore’s health ministry said.

Of the Singapore attendees, four have also reported symptoms and been referred to its National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Authorities have not commented on the company or industry involved.

A spokesman for the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Gerald Kheng, said the hotel had been deep cleaned after it was first informed of the incident by Singapore’s health ministry on Tuesday but said it was not aware of any other cases among guests or staff.

Singapore – one of the worst hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) – has reported 28 cases of coronavirus, including some local transmission cases.

The city-state says no evidence has emerged of widespread community spread but it announced new precautionary measures on Tuesday including halting group activities such as school assemblies.

Several firms in Singapore have suspended business and media events, including a big travel fair, but the Singapore Airshow is set to go ahead next week albeit on a smaller scale.

Can the virus be cured? 

The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world. 

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