Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Britons warned to avoid Wuhan as Chinese authorities appear to be disinfecting cities

Images are emerging on social media of Chinese authorities spraying streets in Shanghai with what appears to be disinfectant and of army officers wearing face masks travelling in groups on the city's metro as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

Shanghai Disneyland announced on Weibo, China's social media platform, that customers who've already bought tickets or booked hotel rooms could postpone their visits for up to six months after nine cases of the virus were reported in the city.

So far a total of 473 cases of pneumonia caused by coronavirus have been reported worldwide. Most are in the city of Wuhan, but there have also been cases reported in other Chinese cities, as well as Shanghai, and in Thailand, Japan South Korea and one case in Washington State in the US. So far, 17 people have died.

Chinese authorities have issued a warning to people not to travel in or out of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, and Public Health England (PHE) has updated its travel advice to warn against all but essential trips to the city.

"Basically, do not go to Wuhan. And those in Wuhan please do not leave the city," said National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin in one of the first public briefings since the beginning of the outbreak.

The UK has introduced monitoring of the three direct flights a week from Wuhan to Heathrow, including providing advice to travellers if they feel unwell.

A Port Health team who will meet the flights will include the principal port medical inspector, port health doctor, administrative support, and team leader.

The team will check for symptoms of coronavirus and provide information to all passengers about symptoms, and what to do if they become ill.

PHE said the enhanced monitoring of direct flights will be kept under continuous review and expanded to other Chinese departure points if necessary.

"Based on the emerging evidence regarding case numbers, potential sources and human to human transmission, the risk to travellers to Wuhan is moderate," it said.

"The risk to the UK population has been assessed as low. This has been raised from very low due to current evidence on the likelihood of cases being imported into this country.

"The UK is well prepared for new diseases and our approach is being kept under constant review.  In line with our robust preparedness activities for emerging infections, we have issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of Wuhan novel coronavirus and PHE has developed a diagnostic test. 

"Thanks to PHE, the UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this novel disease.

"There are currently no confirmed cases of this new infection in the UK."

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said: "This is a new and rapidly evolving situation where information on cases and the virus is being gathered and assessed daily.  

"Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is considered low. We are working with the WHO and other international partners, have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.

"The risk to visitors to Wuhan is moderate reflecting an increase in the number of cases being identified in China and evidence that the virus has limited spread from person to person. 

"If you are traveling to the area, you should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms. Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK. They should phone ahead before attending any health services and mention their recent travel to the city."



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