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UK Border Force hunts 2,000 people who flew in from Wuhan

UK Border Force hunts 2,000 people who flew in from Wuhan in last two weeks and up to 20 new patients are tested as France declares three cases after killer virus reached Europe

  • Border Force agents have been deployed to crank up search for those who came from eastern Hubei province
  • While 14 people have been tested and given the all-clear, up to 20 people were last night still awaiting results 
  • The deadly coronavirus has hit Europe with France confirming its first three cases of the deadly condition     
  • Medics are being stationed at Heathrow to monitor passengers as virus has now reached almost 12 countries

British authorities are racing to track down 2,000 people who arrived from Wuhan in the past two weeks, fearing they may be infected with the deadly coronavirus which has now hit European shores. 

Border Force agents have been deployed to crank up the search for those who came from eastern China’s Hubei province prior to a flight freeze enforced on Wednesday.

The death toll of the outbreak has climbed to 41 in China and 1,300 have been infected worldwide, but no cases have so far been confirmed on UK soil.   

While 14 people have been tested and given the all-clear, up to 20 people were last night still awaiting results which will be publicly released this afternoon.

And England’s chief medical officer has warned doctors to brace for cases of infected persons sprout up in the UK over the coming days. 

Although the Chinese government has imposed an effective travel ban on 56million people at the epicentre of the outbreak, teams of medics are being stationed at Heathrow to monitor passengers as the virus has now reached almost a dozen countries.

Only across the Channel, France is treating its first three cases in Paris and Bordeaux, according to the country’s health minister. 

Agnes Buzyn said these were the first cases on the European continent, adding it was likely others would arise.   

Heathrow Airport arrivals where passengers are seen wearing face masks as they come back from their travels

Pictured: Travellers wearing face masks and dragging suitcases arrive at Heathrow Airport this afternoon. It is unclear where they flew from

Three cases in France were confirmed on Friday – the first confirmations in Europe as the deadly coronavirus spreads to nearly every continent

Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow today wore face masks as fears grow the coronavirus may spread to the UK

Pictured: Boris Johnson celebrating Chinese New Year. Pressure is now mounting on the government to ramp up Britain’s response and screen all passengers on flights from China

January 22 

The Department of Health announces enhanced monitoring from all flights from Wuhan to the UK, but there are few to be checked, after the Chinese city of Wuhan is essentially shut down in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.

Train stations and the airport were closed, while ferries and long-distance buses were also stopped.

‘To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,’ Gauden Galea, the WHO’s representative in China said.

There are 17 confirmed fatalities from the virus.

January 23

Public Health England confirms that 14 people in the UK have been tested for the virus, with five having come back negative, and another nine awaiting results, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the NHS is ‘ready to respond appropriately’ to any cases of coronavirus that emerge in the UK.

The World Health Organisation says it is ‘too early’ to declare a public health emergency.

Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong all report their first cases of the illness.

January 24

Matt Hancock chairs a Cobra meeting on the Government’s planned response to the virus.

Afterwards, he reiterates to reporters on Whitehall that the threat to the UK is ‘low’.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, confirms that the tests for coronavirus on 14 people in the UK have all come back negative but there are checks ongoing on others.

Health officials team up with Border Force agents and airlines to try to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown to the UK from Wuhan.

Three cases are confirmed in France – one in Bordeaux and two in the Paris area – the first in Europe.

The Chinese National Health Commission reported a jump in the number of infected people to 1,287, while the death toll rises to 41.

January 25

Four cases are confirmed in Australia, one in Victoria and three in New South Wales. 

As the scramble to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus is ratcheted up: 

  • China’s National Health Commission reported the number of people infected with a new virus has risen to 1,287 with 41 deaths;
  • Thirteen Chinese cities were in lockdown with the virus also confirmed in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the US, Vietnam and Nepal; 
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Friday hosted a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee
  • Boarding schools were warned that thousands of Chinese pupils could be stranded in the UK;
  • Australia confirmed on Saturday its first four cases of the new coronavirus;
  • The Chinese army deployed medical specialists to Hubei province as authorities expanded travel bans; 

The Department of Health confirmed it was trying to find ‘as many passengers as we can’ who arrived from Wuhan as the public were cautioned it was ‘highly likely’ the coronavirus would reach British shores. 

Some of these may have already flown back to China such as 15 students who visited Cambridge University on January 13, but have since returned to Asia. 

The scale of the global outbreak and fears it could be unleashed on Britain sparked a snap meeting of the government’s Cobra committee chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Boris Johnson, who was occupied with hosting Chinese New Year celebrations, left the top-ranking officials to thrash out a plan to fend of the virus and dismiss the overall threat as ‘low’.

But following the meeting, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘We think there’s a fair chance we may get some cases over time.

‘Of course this depends on whether this continues for a long time, or whether this turns out to be something which is brought under control relatively quickly.’      

Among this first batch of UK patients to be tested for the killer condition was art teacher Michael Hope, 45, who returned from Wuhan with flu-like symptoms last Sunday.

He was quarantined for 27 hours at Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary and finally given the thumbs up after being treated by medics who ‘looked like spacemen’. 

The check-ups of those who have arrived on British soil from China is being carried out by heavily-suited doctors, according to Mr Hope who was one of the first treated.

He said: ‘I felt like E.T., to be honest. It was totally, totally surreal.’ He added that it took his nurse several minutes to get into all the protective fear just to deliver him a banana for breakfast – and he was grateful for getting a nicotine patch passed under his door.  

Mr Hope arrived back Sunday feeling unwell, having been ill since January 4. He told his GP about his symptoms and recent return from Wuhan in a telephone clinic. He was rushed to the city’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and put in isolation.

He underwent tests before getting the good news on Thursday evening he had the flu, but not the coronavirus. He said: ‘The staff came in with their masks off, so then I knew I was going to be okay.’

During the isolation period, staff wore protective suits and they tested his blood, urine and took throat swabs.

It took his nurse several minutes to get into all the protective gear just to deliver him a banana for breakfast, and he was grateful for the delivery of a nicotine patch which was passed under his door.

Mr Hope said: ‘The care was exceptional. It was scary being there but they made me feel quite relaxed. They were very human even though they looked like spacemen.

‘I was impressed with the speed with which they dealt with it. They would come in through one sealed door and leave through another. Every time they left they had to dispose of their clothing.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes members of the Chinese community at 10 Downing Street, London, in celebration of the Chinese New Year

British patient describes quarantine scare  

Craig Dillon

Craig Dillon, 27, told how he was bundled through a secret hospital entrance and into isolation at breakneck speed as soon as he mentioned his recent flight from China.

He described being probed by doctors and nurses wearing heavy-duty hazmat suits while their fellow medics watched with baited breath behind toughened glass. 

The Westminster-based digital media guru is one of 14 people who have been tested and given the all-clear following returns from China where the deadly virus has killed 41.

After waking up on Tuesday night dripping with sweat and struggling to breathe, he rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital, London on the advice of a 111 operator. 

‘When I arrived I was so weak I had to lean against the wall,’ he wrote in the Telegraph.

‘This doctor asked if I was okay and when I replied: ‘I’m feeling really ill, I just came back from China,’ he literally grabbed me by the arm and led me back outside the hospital.

‘A nurse came out and gave me a mask and then I was shown to this secret door around the back.’  

After a tense three-hour wait, he breathed a sigh of relief when he was revealed to have caught pneumonia. 

In the early hours of Saturday China’s National Health Commission reported the number of people infected with a new virus has risen to 1,287 with 41 deaths. The commission said the latest tally comes from 29 provinces across China, including 237 patients in serious condition. 

All 41 deaths have been in China, including 39 in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, one in Hebei and one in Heilongjiang. 

A man in his 50s has now been quarantined in Melbourne, Australia after contracting the deadly virus. He showed no symptoms of the virus when he travelled back alone from Wuhan, via Guangzhou, in China on January 19.  

Pressure is now mounting on Mr Hancock to ramp up Britain’s response and screen all passengers on flights from China. 

Travellers arriving at Heathrow from the Chinese city of Wuhan, at the heart of the outbreak, revealed they were not subject to any screening checks, and that it was a ‘completely normal flight’. 

Ed Davey, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, today told Mr Hancock to ‘pull his finger’ out and demanded he explains how the Government plans to protect the British public from the killer SARS-like infection, which has struck down more than 900 people across the world and can be spread through coughing. 

US president Donald Trump said the coronavirus outbreak ‘will all work out well’ as he praised China’s handling of the outbreak, tweeting: ‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’  

Hospitals in Liverpool, Newcastle and two in London – the Royal Free and Guy’s And St Thomas’ – have readied their ‘high consequence infectious disease’ treatment centres to receive patients. The hospitals are each equipped with high-tech isolation units and staffed by separate teams who specialise in treating adults and children.

Officials admitted it would be almost impossible to stop the virus arriving in the UK because of a two-week incubation period – meaning someone could arrive from China showing no symptoms, before later falling ill.

The festivities to herald in the Year of the Rat in 2020 came as the Government held a Cobra crisis meeting to discuss the coronavirus outbreak

A man wears a face mask next to a coronavirus notice at Heathrow Airport this morning. Heathrow has since announced it will have a ‘public health hub’ for travellers

Public Health England said: ‘No system of checks can claim to offer absolute protection because of the incubation period of the virus.

‘Some people might only show symptoms 14 days after exposure to an infected person.’

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said there was a ‘fair chance’ Britain would see cases emerge – and stressed that tackling the virus would be a ‘marathon not a sprint’.

Last night a study of the first 41 cases in Wuhan, published in the Lancet medical journal, showed two thirds of them were among otherwise-healthy people – suggesting anyone could be at risk.

Worryingly, even those who did not show symptoms were able to carry and transmit the disease, the study showed. Fears of a possible pandemic also sparked a stampede for protective face masks across Britain, with one Scottish pharmacy selling an unprecedented 2,000 in one day.

Before all flights were cancelled out of Wuhan on Wednesday night there were three direct journeys to Heathrow each week.

Ministers yesterday ordered search parties to track down the estimated 2,000 people who have flown to the UK from Wuhan in the last fortnight. They will then be contacted and quizzed about their health. If any show signs of the virus they will be asked to undergo immediate testing.

Sources yesterday defended the failure to introduce passenger screening at UK airports, saying it was ‘ineffective’ against a virus that can have an incubation period of up to 14 days. Professor Whitty said: ‘The risk to the UK remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage.’

Officials said people feeling ill should call, rather than visit, their GP for fear of spreading the virus.

Guests of Mr Johnson included the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Lui Xiaoming (pictured today attending the celebrations)

Mr Johnson hosted figures from the British-Chinese community in the heart of Westminster ahead of the lunar new year on Saturday

None of the fourteen patients tested in the UK (pictured, where they were reportedly being treated) yesterday have the virus. MailOnline understands up to 10 more patients are being tested

Revealed: Advice to NHS doctors if they fear a patient has coronavirus

Doctors in the UK have been told to leave the room straight away and shut their patient in if they think they might have the Chinese coronavirus.

Public Health England earlier this week issued official guidance for doctors as concerns grow that the contagious illness will make its way to the UK. 

No cases have been confirmed in the UK yet. At least 15 medical workers in Wuhan have become infected while treating patients with the virus. 

The PHE guidance, issued to GP practice doctors this week, read: ‘If [the Wuhan coronavirus] is considered possible when a consultation is already in progress, withdraw from the room, close the door and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

‘Avoid physical examination of a suspected case. The patient should remain in the room with the door closed. Belongings and waste should remain in the room.

‘Advise others not to enter the room. If a clinical history still needs to be obtained or completed, do this by telephone.

‘The patient should not be allowed to use communal toilet facilities.

‘Instruct them to not touch anything or anyone when walking to the toilet. Instruct the patient to wash their hands thoroughly after toileting.’ 

If the patient is critically ill, they should be put into an ambulance, PHE said.

But otherwise, a hospital should be phoned ahead and warned and the patient must be told to get there without using public transport or a taxi.

Advice for NHS staff:

• Ask for detailed travel history from all patients with flu-like symptoms to help identify potential cases.

• If a GP identifies a possible case, the person should be isolated immediately and medic must then contact their NHS Trust airborne virus team to set up a test.  

• Patient should be taken to nearest ‘appropriate isolation facilities’ for checks and testing.  

• If coronavirus is detected, the patient will be transferred to an Airborne High Consequences Infectious Diseases centre – these are Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Free in London. Royal Liverpool. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital. 

The government usually convenes Cobra – short for Cabinet Briefing Room A – to deal with a developing or imminent crisis. It sees senior ministers, often led by the Prime Minister, sit down with senior officials and experts in Whitehall.

First set up in the 1970s, as well as being convened in the wake of terrorist attacks it has also met recently to discuss foreign and domestic issues including floods which struck part of the UK last November and the migrant crisis at Calais. 

Professor Whitty, who was part of the meeting, said: ‘COBR met today to discuss the situation in Wuhan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. I updated on the current situation, the preparedness of the NHS, and possible next steps.

‘We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage. We have tried and tested measures in place to respond. The UK is well prepared for these types of incidents, with excellent readiness against infectious diseases.’

‘We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track record of managing new forms of infectious disease. The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.

‘There are no confirmed cases in the UK to date. We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of the outbreak and are now implementing our planned response.

‘A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today. This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures. The World Health Organization has rightly responded quickly and China has introduced strong public health measures.’

Public Health England yesterday confirmed 14 patients in the UK were tested for suspicious symptoms that were similar to those caused by the coronavirus. No identities were confirmed but most were thought to be Chinese tourists. 

Scottish officials said they were testing five cases in Edinburgh and Glasgow ‘as a precaution’. Another man was being tested in isolation at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, and there was a suspected case in Hillingdon, west London. The locations of the other patients were never confirmed.

MailOnline has not been told where the new cases are in the UK – only that there a handful of patients being tested with suspicious coronavirus-like symptoms.  

When asked why no physical tests were carried out on arrivals into the UK from Wuhan on Wednesday – the city’s last flight into Britain before the shut down, Professor Whitty said: ‘Every country does this slightly differently, that’s always been the case. 

‘The way the UK does this, and will continue to, is to make sure we get the best scientific advice for the particular threat.’

He said that after a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group of Experts, it was concluded: ‘The screening would not really provide any appreciable increase in benefit for the UK public.’

When asked whether checks would be upscaled to include people who have arrived on all flights from China, Mr Whitty said: ‘We’re trying to get ourselves to a place where we can provide a sustainable system that can be scaled to whatever the outbreak looks like. 

‘It may be that this spreads, it may be that this goes down over time and we need to be ready to respond to either of those.’ He added that Britain ‘needs to plan for all eventualities’.

Amid fears that Britain can do little to stop the virus spreading, Health Secretary Matt Hancock stressed that officials were ‘well prepared’ for its arrival. As well as the announcement this afternoon that Heathrow would set up a public health hub, all UK airports have medical experts on hand and information is being provided to all passengers returning from China.

Student newspaper The Tab today revealed 15 students from Wuhan (pictured) attended the University of Cambridge this week, before the city was placed on lockdown 

Cambridge University’s Jesus College posted on Instagram this week, writing: ‘It’s been great having the Wuhan University students around the College to learn from a range of lecturers’

On its website, the university says: ‘From 13-22 January 2020, Jesus College welcomed 15 visitors from Wuhan College, China, for an education enrichment programme’

Passengers this morning arrived at Heathrow Airport wearing protective masks over fears of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

Passengers are pictured arriving at Heathrow Terminal 4 today wearing protective masks as signs have been installed around the airport warning passengers of the symptoms of the virus

Photos from inside the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan show medical workers caring for critically-ill patients today, January 24 


Two people in the US have now caught the coronavirus – a man near Seattle, Washington, and a woman in Chicago, Illinois. 

The man, who is in his 30s, is in hospital in Washington state, close to Seattle, and recovering well.

Authorities are also monitoring 43 people with whom he came into contact with before he was diagnosed five days after returning home from Wuhan.

The Chicago woman, who is in her 60s, returned from Wuhan on January 13.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also testing another 63 possible cases in 22 states. 

There are 10 people in California being held in isolation while they wait for test results, CBS News reports, as well as a Texas A&M student who had visited Wuhan and a student at Tennessee Tech.  

Speaking on Wednesday, January 22, President Donald Trump he was ‘not at all’ concerned about the possibility of a pandemic. 

‘It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,’ he said.

‘We have it totally under control. We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well.’

Dr Martin Cetron, of the CDC, said the US was planning a ‘very complex process’ of rerouting passengers.

He added: ‘With increasing cases, we decided to move into this full-on, 100 percent coverage strategy’.

The US announced it is pulling most of its diplomats and their families from the consulate general in Wuhan.

But ministers have faced criticism for failing to monitor jet passengers arriving from China, when other countries – including Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore have since introduced more rigorous checks with passengers having their temperature taken regardless of symptoms. 

Acting Lib Dem boss Ed Davey criticised Mr Hancock, telling Sun Online: ‘It’s time Matt Hancock pulled his finger out. We need to know how long the UK government has known the level of threat and how he is going to protect our citizens.

‘These problems do not know borders and Hancock needs to work with international partners to stop this situation before it gets worse.’  

Exiting the Cabinet Office this afternoon, Mr Hancock said: ‘We have just held a Cobra meeting on the coronavirus concerns. As I made clear to the House yesterday, the clinical advice is that the risk to the public remains low and the chief medical officer will be making a full statement later today.’

Anyone with the symptoms, who has travelled to the UK via Wuhan, will be tested for the virus and if cases are confirmed put in isolation at one of four UK super-hospitals: Two in London, one in Liverpool and one in Newcastle.

Officials yesterday warned thousands of foreign students who have gone back to China to celebrate their New Year this weekend could return to the UK unaware they have the virus.

Universities are already identifying staff and students who have recently visited the worst-hit areas, with some told that they will not be allowed back on campus unless they agree to a ‘suitable quarantine period’. 

Student newspaper The Tab today revealed 15 students from Wuhan attended the University of Cambridge this week, before the city was placed on lockdown. It reported that the students also went clubbing in the city and that Cambridge Colleges have emailed students a document with advice regarding the coronavirus.

MailOnline has seen an email sent to students at Cambridge’s Jesus College, where the Wuhan travellers went to, which says none of the visitors have shown any signs of infection as of yet. 

Private schools, many of which also have large contingents of Chinese students, also issued guidance. China sends more pupils to UK fee-paying schools than any other country. 

The Boarding Schools Association (BSA) said ‘schools might wish to consider planning for the eventuality that some boarders either cannot or choose not to travel home at half-term or, more likely, Easter’.

While there is ‘no immediate cause for concern’ the situation needs to be closely monitored, independent school groups have said.  

Huge efforts are being made by construction workers in Wuhan to erect a new hospital in less than a week on the government’s orders. Officials said the medical facility must be built to cope with overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients

News footage from China shows a patient being wheeled out of a Wuhan hospital on a stretcher by medics wearing protective clothing and masks

Shoppers at Oxfordshire’s Bicester Village outlet wear face masks today amid fears of catching the killer coronavirus

A man in Manchester is pictured today wearing a face mask in Manchester’s Chinatown. The Government’s Cobra committee is meeting in Downing Street to discuss the threat to the UK from coronavirus

A spectator wears a mask as she watches the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside of Buckingham Palace this morning

A woman in Glasgow’s George Square wears a face mask today. Five patients in Scotland were tested for coronavirus after returning from China with flu-like symptoms

Two women are seen wearing protective face masks as they walk through the streets of central London this morning

Shanghai’s Disneyland will close to visitors tomorrow for ‘the prevention and control of the disease outbreak’. Visitors wearing masks walk past the resort today which has taken the extraordinary step of closing during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday

The Forbidden City (pictured today) is also closed and part of the Great Wall of China, a huge tourist destination and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was shut to stop the spread of the coronavirus


Before Wuhan’s unprecedented move to cancel all flights out of the city on Wednesday night, there were three direct journeys to London Heathrow each week.

Hubei province, where Wuhan is, first reported a mysterious bout of pneumonia cases on December 31. Tests later confirmed it later turned out to be the killer coronavirus. 

MailOnline has calculated there were 10 flights from Wuhan between then and when the city home to 11million people was put on lockdown – with the last flight on Wednesday, January 22. 

China Southern airline, which operated all of the flights landing at Heathrow, are thought to use the Boeing 787-800 plane for the near 12-hour journey.

Information online suggests the plane holds 219 passengers, including 36 in business class, 72 in economy plus and 111 in standard economy. 

Therefore, it is thought that at least 2,000 patients will have travelled directly from Wuhan to London since the outbreak first began. 

Public Health England said it was ‘really not in their remit’ to confirm the numbers – but added: ‘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.’ 

The World Health Organisation last night stopped short of declaring it a ‘global health emergency’, but said there was no doubt it ‘may yet become one’. 

The virus – previously unknown to science – first appeared in Wuhan last month. It originated in a meat market and scientists believe it ‘jumped the species barrier’ from snakes, which may have been on sale illegally, to humans.

Symptoms begin with a fever, a dry cough and sneezing. This is followed by shortness of breath about a week later, which can develop into pneumonia. 

All 26 deaths known about so far have occurred in China and most patients were elderly. The virus has now spread to nine countries including the US, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.

Japan has recorded two cases, one of which exposes how infected travellers leaving China could be missed by health checks. The Wuhan resident, in his 40s, developed a fever several days before his journey to Japan. But his condition then stabilised. He reported a fever again three days after he arrived and is now in a Tokyo hospital, Japan’s health ministry said.

On Wednesday night, China suspended all flights out of Wuhan. Direct flights from the city to Heathrow were halted as a result, although there are still many flights into the UK from other Chinese cities. Currently, there are no screening measures on these flights on arrival. 

Yesterday the NHS’s Chief Medical Officer wrote to hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses advising them to establish whether patients had recently visited Wuhan. The letter said Chinese New Year celebrations could ‘amplify transition’, including within the UK, due to the ‘mass movement’ of people around the world.

University staff are worried that some of the Chinese students who will travel home this Saturday will bring the infection back. As coronavirus has an incubation period of up to two weeks – the time between infection and symptoms beginning – they may pass it on before they even feel ill.

Medical staff work in the ICU (intensive care unit) of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan

Medical workers transfer a patient who is on the mend out of the ICU (intensive care unit) of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan

People are seen passing through a quarantine tent at Beijing West Railway Station as 14 cities around China had special measures put in place today

Medical workers at Zhongnan Hospital are pictured in protective gear today, Friday January 24

Public buses could be seen parked and unattended in Wuhan today – the city’s public transport has shut down

An unverified video posted on Twitter claims to show members of Central Theater Command – a division of the People’s Liberation Army – standing guard outside a train station in Wuhan

Passengers at the Beijing Railway Station were today pictured wearing face masks amid fears of the outbreak spreading to the capital. Major Lunar New Year celebrations have been cancelled in the city 

People wear masks in the Jingshan Park in Beijing today, January 24. New Year celebrations planned in the park will no longer go ahead

Medical staff transfers a coronavirus patient in Wuhan City – a metropolis of 10million people where 2,000 people in Britain today have been in the past fortnight

An employee this morning sprayed disinfectant on a train at Suseo Station in Seoul, South Korea, as a precaution against the coronavirus

Coronavirus: What we know so far 

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 respiratory 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 it kill?

Yes. Twenty-six people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

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 elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

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


One in five international students in Britain is from China. Professor Juergen Haas, the head of infection medicine at Edinburgh University, said there would be ‘many more’ suspected cases, especially in cities with high Chinese student populations. These include Manchester, Birmingham and London. 

Mr Hancock yesterday told the Commons: ‘The number of deaths and the number of cases is likely to be higher than those that have been confirmed so far and I expect them to rise further. The public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well prepared for these type of outbreaks.’

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said: ‘Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.’

Jeremy Farrar, of research charity the Wellcome Trust, said: ‘This isn’t just a China issue, it’s going to affect us all.’

The locations of all the 14 patients is not clear at this stage, but earlier today tests on five patients in Scotland had not yet ruled out coronavirus. It is unclear where they are being treated but sources say they are at both Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. 

All of the patients in Scotland are thought to be in isolation and MailOnline understands they flew in to London in the past fortnight before making their way to Scotland. It is unclear if they are related. 

Another patient in Northern Ireland – who also travelled from Wuhan, but it is unclear when – is being treated at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

It comes as pressure grows on ministers to do more to protect the public. Health Secretary Matt Hancock sought to issue reassurances today as he addressed MPs about the killer outbreak. He promised all passengers on direct flights from China will receive information on what to do if they fall ill. 

Passengers from Wuhan last night claimed they were just waved through Heathrow and told to ring NHS 111 if they began to feel ill – despite Government promises of ‘enhanced monitoring’ of flights out of the Hubei city.  

Nine Chinese cities and towns, including Wuhan – which has banned all flights in and out of the city, have been placed in quarantine in a desperate attempt to try to contain the SARS-like virus. Shocking videos show how passengers at airports feared to have the virus are being wheeled out in a special ‘quarantine box’.  

Officials in China’s capital Beijing announced major Chinese New Year events were cancelled because of the constantly-mutating virus, which can cause pneumonia and organ failure.

In a separate development, a passenger on a flight to Los Angeles from Mexico City was taken to hospital and quarantined after showing ‘disturbing’ symptoms consistent with China’s deadly coronavirus. If confirmed, they will become the second case on America soil. The first case – an unidentified man in his 30s in Washington – is being treated by a robot, it was revealed yesterday.

Unverified footage emerging on social media purports to show corpses of coronavirus patients being left unattended in the corridor of a hospital. A woman can be heard saying from behind the camera: ‘Three corpses, [they] have been lying here all morning’

Unverified footage posted by a blogger on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, appears to show the corridor and lobby of a hospital crammed with hundreds of mask-donning patients waiting to see the doctor. At least nine cities in China’s Hubei Province have been locked down


Leading US scientists warned a coronavirus could kill tens of millions of people three months before the deadly outbreak in China.

Scientists at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said 65million patients from every corner of the world would die in the event of a global pandemic.

They modeled a simulation scenario last October which predicted it would take just 18 months to rack up the huge death toll.

Dr Eric Toner, a senior researcher at Johns Hopkins, said he wasn’t shocked when news of a mysterious coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in late December.

‘I have thought for a long time that the most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus,’ he told Business Insider.

Coronaviruses typically affect the respiratory tract and can lead to illnesses like pneumonia or the common cold.

A coronavirus was also responsible for the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in China, which affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. 

Dr Toner’s simulation of a hypothetical deadly coronavirus pandemic suggested that after six months, nearly every country in the world would have cases of the virus. Within 18 months, 65 million people could die. 

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – which is thought to be treating one of the patients – has yet to issue a statement, saying the Scottish Government would release an update later today.  

Senior doctors told the Record that they believe the cases may both be down to just the flu, given the patients’ symptoms.  

One source told the newspaper: ‘There was no doubt the situation was being taken seriously because of the symptoms being displayed and the specific origin of travel.

‘The patient came through London to Glasgow and after the symptoms were flagged up no chances were taken.

‘The tests that were carried out could not immediately isolate what the condition might be and it may take a bit longer to be absolutely sure what doctors are dealing with. Obviously they are erring on the side of caution in the meantime.’ 

Regarding cases, the Prime Minister’s deputy spokesman told reporters: ‘These measures are purely precautionary and nobody has tested positive. We are well prepared and well equipped.’

Scottish Government sources confirmed five patients were being tested – after issuing a statement to say the correct figure was just three on Thursday.

Confusion surrounded the true number of patients being tested, with the Edinburgh Evening News reporting that the three patients were being treated at the city’s Royal Infirmary – and one in Glasgow. 

Professor Jurgen Haas, head of infection medicine at the University of Edinburgh, also claimed there were four cases in Scotland – three in Edinburgh and another in Glasgow. 

But the Daily Record said a source had revealed two patients were taken into isolation in Glasgow, saying the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was treating at least one patient and had implemented control measures. It reported a third patient was being tested in Edinburgh.  

The coronavirus can lead to pneumonia, which can kill people by causing them to drown in the fluid flooding their lungs

Is it was reported some of the patients in Scotland were being treated at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow

The other patient in Scotland was being treated in Edinburgh, thought to be at the city’s Royal Infirmary (pictured)

The patient in Northern Ireland – who also travelled from Wuhan, but it is unclear when – was being treated at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on Thursday

Last night there was a suspected case in Hillingdon, west London (pictured, the Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex). Public Health England has not revealed where the other cases are


Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms.

If and when they do, typical signs include:

  • a runny nose
  • a cough
  • sore throat
  • 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. 

Discussing the potentiaL spread, Professor Haas said: ‘Here at the University of Edinburgh we have more than 2,000 students from China and they are always coming and going back to China so we are relatively sure we will have cases in the UK from travellers coming back from China.’ 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus (WN Co-V) 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.’

The BBC broke the news of the suspected case in Northern Ireland, reporting that it is believed the man is being treated in an isolated ward of the hospital. 

Belfast Health Trust, which runs the hospital where the patient is being treated, repeatedly declined to comment to MailOnline about the potential case. The Public Health Agency (PHA) also declined to comment.

It is understood a patient arrived at the Royal Victoria showing symptoms which may or may not be associated with the condition but it will be some time before results are returned. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted officials would ‘not hesitate’ to ramp up UK measures to protect the home nations from the spread of the deadly Chinese coronavirus.

Workers in protective suits are pictured today checking the temperature of passengers arriving at the Xianning North Station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan

Police holding guns wear face masks outside the Beijing railway station this morning. The virus has so far spread to the USA, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan

Chinese food market at the epicentre of deadly virus outbreak was selling KOALAS along with snakes, rats and wolf pups for locals to eat

The Chinese food market at the centre of the deadly SARS-like virus outbreak claimed they were selling live koalas, snakes, rats and wolf pups for locals to cook and eat.

The Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan in China came under scrutiny on Wednesday after Chinese officials said the coronavirus may have originated in a wild animal sold at the food emporium.

The market has since been closed and has been labelled ‘ground zero’ by local authorities. 

A list of prices for one of the businesses operating at the market showed a menagerie of animals available for sale including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, according to the South China Morning Post.

The food menu shows a price of 70 RMB (£7.70/$10) for koala meat.

Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market (above) is allegedly selling wild animals including live wolf pups, civets and even koalas according to the South China Morning Post.  

A list of prices for one of the businesses operating at the market showed ‘live tree bears’ which is the Chinese for ‘koala’ (circled above)  

In parliament Thursday morning, the Health Secretary told MPs: ‘Currently the evidence suggests the vast majority of cases are in Wuhan.

‘Obviously we keep that under constant review and we will not hesitate to take further steps if that’s necessary to protect the British public.’

He added: ‘We have been closely monitoring the situation in Wuhan and have put in place proportionate, precautionary measures.’

His comments came amid growing fears the safety checks at UK airports were not tough enough.  

Shadow health minister Sharon Hodgson said arrivals seemed to be getting ‘virtually no screening’.

And she asked if flights from other Chinese cities would be monitored. Officials said yesterday just passengers from Wuhan would be monitored.

Travellers from the giant city, home to 11million people, were separated last night at Heathrow Airport, as part of a drastic plan to contain any potential spread of the virus. 

Ministers announced the Wuhan flight – one of three direct flights that go to London each week – would land in an isolated area of Terminal 4, and passengers would be met by a team of medics. 

But holiday-makers arriving from the virus-hit city expressed their shock as they were met by a health team but had not been subject to any screening checks. 

Instead, they were given a Public Health England leaflet, advising them to contact doctors if they felt ill before being allowed into the country before they were let directly though the airport after baggage reclaim and immigration checks. One said it felt like a ‘completely normal flight’.

By contrast, countries including the US, Malaysia and Singapore have introduced more rigorous checks, with all passengers coming in from Wuhan are having their temperature taken, regardless of whether they have any symptoms. 

The Chinese food market at the centre of the deadly SARS-like virus outbreak claimed they were selling live koalas, snakes, rats and wolf pups for locals to cook and eat.

The Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan in China came under scrutiny on Wednesday after Chinese officials said the coronavirus may have originated in a wild animal sold at the food emporium.

The market has since been closed and has been labelled ‘ground zero’ by local authorities. 

A list of prices for one of the businesses operating at the market showed a menagerie of animals available for sale including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, according to the South China Morning Post.

Fourteen Chinese cities, including Wuhan – which has banned all flights in and out of the city, were placed in quarantine in a desperate attempt to try to contain the SARS-like virus, which can cause pneumonia and organ failure

Chinese tourists were pictured today wearing black face masks at the Vladivostok International Airport in Vladivostok, Russia. China last night confirmed a death in the Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia


The killer coronavirus sweeping across the world may have come from bats, scientists have said.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai came to the conclusion.

In a statement, the team said: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.

Tests of the virus, which has yet to be named, have revealed it targets a protein called ACE2 – just like its cousin SARS, the South China Morning Post reported.

Tracing the evolution of the virus, the team of experts found it belonged to betacoronavirus, making it structurally similar to SARS.

Authorities have pointed the blame on food markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that scientists are scrambling to contain.

Rodents and bats among other animals are slaughtered and sold in traditional ‘wet markets’, which tourists flock to see the ‘real’ side of the country.

And the UK is carrying no checks on passengers coming in to Britain on the dozens of flights originating from Wuhan which come via Bangkok in Thailand, Shanghai in China or Hong Kong.

Wuhan earlier this week shut down its entire public transport system as it tried to halt the outbreak of the deadly virus. 

People were told not to leave the area and the airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers, in a week when millions are travelling for the upcoming New Year holiday. 

Two cities close to Wuhan – which has ordered all residents to wear face masks in public places – have now also been locked down.

Ezhou has shut down train stations, and Huanggang will suspend public buses and trains and order cinemas and internet cafes to close their doors.

Officials in Beijing, the Chinese capital home to 21million people, announced all major Chinese New Year events in the city were cancelled.

Fears of the coronavirus, which has yet to be officially named, have grown as Saudi Arabia yesterday was claimed to have become the tenth country to declare a confirmed case in an Indian nurse working at al-Hayat hospital, some 560 miles (900 km) southwest of the capital Riyadh. But the claim was later dismissed by India’s consulate in Jeddah, who said the nurse actually only had MERS – or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, another type of coronavirus.

Health officials say the first American man infected with the coronavirus may have come in contact with at least 16 people before he was put in isolation. The unnamed man from Washington state flew in to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from China on January 15 and returned to his home in Snahomish County before being diagnosed with the virus five days later on January 20

In addition to the confirmed cases in Washington and Illinois, cases are suspected in California – particularly in the Bay Area and in Alameda County- in Texas and in Tennessee

The Brazos County Health District in Texas is investigating a suspected case of the deadly new coronavirus in a person who recently traveled to Wuhan – the Chinese city where the disease originated (file photo)


2009 Swine flu epidemic 

In 2009 ‘Swine flu’ was identified for the first time in Mexico and was named because it is a similar virus to one which affects pigs. The outbreak is believed to have killed as many as 575,400 people.

2014 Poliovirus resurgence

Poliovirus began to resurface in countries where it had once been eradicated, and the WHO called for a widespread vaccination programme to stop it spreading. Cameroon, Pakistan and Syria were most at risk.  

2014  and 2019 Ebola outbreaks

Ebola killed at least 11,000 people across the world after it spread like wildfire through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014, 2015 and 2016. More than 28,000 people were infected in what was the worst ever outbreak of the disease. Almost 4,000 people were struck down with the killer virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.

2016 Zika outbreak

Zika, a tropical disease which can cause serious birth defects if it infects pregnant women, was the subject of an outbreak in Brazil’s capital, Rio de Janeiro, in 2016.  

Vietnam also reported two cases Thursday afternoon. Reports say the father and son, whose identities were not revealed, had arrived from Wuhan. Both are said to be in a good condition. 

Singapore announced just hours before that it also had a confirmed case, with a 66-year-old man also from Wuhan testing positive for the virus. 

Four cases have also been recorded in Thailand and two in Hong Kong. Taiwan, Japan, Macau and South Korea have all reported one case. 

The US has also reported a case – an unidentified man from Washington state, who is in his 30s. It was revealed that he had came into close contact with at least 16 people before he was put in isolation. 

According to health officials, he wasn’t diagnosed until Monday, January 20 – five days after he landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from China. He did not fly directly from Wuhan, where he originally set off from. Nor did he visit any of the markets thought to be at the source of the outbreak.

The patient is being treated by a robot armed with a stethoscope in a small, 20-foot-by-20-foot room at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Business Insider reported. 

Officials warned the US is expected to see additional cases. Washington state Health Secretary John Wiesman predicted that the number of Americans infected would likely grow as the coronavirus continues its spread at a faster rate than previously thought.

‘I would expect that at some point we’re going to have more cases in the US,’ Wiesman said, noting that there is no need to panic as public health officials are well-equipped to handle and contain outbreaks. 

Dr Martin Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the US’s Centers for Disease Control, said the CDC has instructed the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Department to redirect anyone who tries to get from Wuhan to the US without going through any of the five airports set-up for screening.

He described funnelling as ‘a very complex process that involves reissuing tickets and rerouting passengers from all over the globe through connecting indirect flights’.

The Washington state patient who became the first recorded case of the new coronavirus in America is currently in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett (pictured)


The UK is one of the first countries outside China to have a specific laboratory test for the coronavirus at the centre of the latest outbreak. 

Any patient with symptoms who has travelled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days will have samples taken, which will be sent to a Public Health England (PHE) laboratory and processed the same day. 

Samples are taken from the nose, throat and deeper down, then sent to PHE’s lab in Colindale, north London. 

PHE also has the capability to sequence the viral genome and compare this to published sequences from China. 

This can provide valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and help inform actions and treatments.

CDC officials have also suggested the possibility of redirecting entire flights inbound from China through airports with screening checkpoints.

When a traveller is sent for a screening in the US, they are first required to take a survey about possible symptoms, such as cough or fever, as well as whether they visited the meat or seafood markets in Wuhan that have been tied to the outbreak.

If they appear to have any symptoms associated with coronavirus, they are taken to on-site triage for further examination and a temperature check.

Two passengers flying from Shanghai on United Airlines were reportedly examined at O’Hare on Tuesday after appearing to show symptoms of coronavirus, the airline said.

It’s unclear what led officials to single out the passengers, but they were both cleared and released after examination.

President Donald Trump addressed the deadly new virus during remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, early Wednesday morning. He praised the CDC’s rapid response and said the situation is being handled ‘very well’. 

Clips posted on Twitter claim to show the impact the unprecedented decision to shut down Wuhan has had, with deserted streets reminiscent of the disaster film 28 Days Later.

Traffic has piled up on the city’s major roads, which have been blocked by police vans enforcing travel bans. 

In one video an eerily quiet street is seen being ‘disinfected’, with billowing fumes filling the air, while another shows huge ‘quarantine tents’ lining a neighbourhood.

Another clip reportedly shows an airline passenger being wheeled out of an airport in a quarantine box, amid suspicions he has the coronavirus.

Part of the Great Wall of China, a huge tourist destination and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to reports today, and Shanghai’s Disneyland will close to visitors tomorrow for ‘the prevention and control of the disease outbreak’

Two people are pictured wearing protective face masks at Changi Airport in Singapore today, January 24

Kharn Lambert, a PE teacher based in China, is trapped in China along with his 81-year-old grandmother


A British grandmother is trapped in Wuhan and unable to return home after the city was quarantined in a desperate bid to contain the outbreak.

Veronica Theobald, 81, from Lancaster, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and has not left the house where she is staying in over a week for fear of falling ill.

She was visiting her grandson, Kharn Lambert, a PE teacher who has lived in the city for five years, and was due to fly back to England on Monday.

However, her return was cancelled after the city was placed on lockdown.

Mr Lambert said: ‘There is no knowing how long she will have to stay here, and I’m worried about her running out of the medication she needs for her health so I’m in constant contact with the British embassy.

‘I do worry if I have to go out for whatever reason that I will bring something back into the house and she will become infected and fall ill.

‘She only brought enough medication for her time here plus and an extra week in case of any flight delays etc. But nothing can prepare you for this.

‘My family at home are extremely concerned about her, but I’m trying hard to reassure them that I am taking the best care of her as I can.’

Mr Lambert said the embassy had put them in touch with a doctor who will be following up on his grandmother’s health after the weekend.

He said the mood in Wuhan has changed in the last 24 hours, due to the short amount of time residents were given to prepare for the lockdown, saying: ‘People are starting to realise the seriousness off the situation. Due to the hysteria caused by the lockdown yesterday, it was difficult to get food and any food that was available had been increased in price. However, I went to the supermarket today and the shelves had been restocked.’

Wearing a protective suit, a mask and gloves, the man allegedly showed symptoms during screening and was isolated from other travellers.

Social media users complained that shops have bumped up the price of fresh produce and shoppers have been seen physically fighting a crowded supermarket.   

One Twitter user, the BBC reported, said the threat of food shortages and disinfectant in the street made it feel like ‘the end of the world’. 

A top official at the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed that human trials for a vaccine targeting 2019-nCoV, what scientists have temporarily labelled it, could begin within three months.

Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg Law that his agency is working with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc to develop the vaccine.

‘We’re already working on it,’ he said. ‘And hopefully in a period of about three months, we’ll be able to start a phase I trial in humans.’

Vaccine experts at Baylor University are also reportedly working on modifying a vaccine they designed to prevent SARS to protect against the new, related coronavirus.

But the school’s Dean of Tropical Medicine, which is developing the shot, Dr Peter Hotez, has already told DailyMail.com that it’s likely years away from deployment.  

An Oxford University expert said the outbreak so far was ‘extraordinary’. Dr Peter Horby said: ‘We haven’t seen this large-scale spread since SARS.’

Speaking about whether he thought the World Health Organisation should declare it an international emergency, he added: ‘There are three criteria – one, is this an extraordinary event? Two, is it spreading internationally? Three, is an international response required? In my opinion all three of these have been met.’ 

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by the SARS coronavirus. It first emerged in China in 2002. 

By the end of a nine-month outbreak, the virus had spread to several other Asian countries as well as the UK and Canada, killing 775 and infecting more than 8,000.

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it is ‘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.’ 

Builders in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, are scrambling to construct a brand new hospital in just a week over a national holiday (Pictured: Construction work today)

Government guards in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, check a car for illegally smuggled animals on January 24. The virus is believed to have jumped from animals to people

What do we know about the deadly coronavirus? What are the symptoms… and how worried SHOULD the world really be?


Part of the Great Wall of China and Disneyland in Shanghai have been closed to stop people spreading the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese officials announced today.

At least 10 cities in China, home to around 33million people, have gone into some form of lockdown in the past two days, with public transport halted and roads closed down.

And footage posted online reportedly shows military personnel being deployed onto the streets of Wuhan, from where the virus has emerged, to help with efforts to contain the outbreak. 

Chinese New Year is due to be celebrated tomorrow, which normally means millions of people travel around the country and the world to visit family. But major festivities all over the country have been cancelled, including those at Beijing’s Forbidden City, a major tourist destination, and fairs and carnivals in Beijing and Hong Kong. 

But travel experts have warned the deadly coronavirus could have a major impact on global tourism unless lessons are learned from previous epidemics.

Gloria Guevara, president of London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), said transparent communication is vital to ‘contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses’. 

WTTC analysis of previous major viral epidemics shows the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19 months, but this can be reduced to just 10 months with ‘the right response and management’. 

It stated that the Sars outbreak of 2003 cost the global travel and tourism sector as much as £38 billion ($49.75bn), while the worldwide economic impact of the 2009 swine flu pandemic was up to £42billion ($55bn).

It emerged yesterday that the deadly coronavirus spreading across Asia is far more contagious than previously thought and someone who is infected can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

Twenty-six people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 800 have been infected in at least nine countries. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be as many as 10,000 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. It is an RNA virus (RNA is a type of genetic material called ribonucleic acid), which means it breaks into cells inside the host of the virus and uses them to reproduce itself.

This 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, three weeks ago after medics first started seeing cases in December.

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.

A man stands guard outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which was ground zero for the outbreak at the beginning of this year. Photographed today, January 24

China spent the first few days of coronavirus outbreak ARRESTING people for spreading ‘rumours’ that SARS had returned

China spent the crucial first days of the new coronavirus outbreak arresting people who talked about it online and harassing journalists trying to cover the story.

While Chinese officials were quick to inform world health authorities about the new disease, they appear to have tried to repress the news at home.

That could have allowed the disease to spread quickly through cities such as Wuhan, now thought to be the epicentre of the virus, because citizens were largely unaware it existed and took no precautions against it.

The move also has chilling echoes of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which China initially tried to cover up and ended with the deaths of almost 800 people.

Chinese officials then reported the infection, identified at the time as an known kind of pneumonia, to the World Health Organization on December 31.

A domestic investigation was launched on January 3, with authorities saying they had ruled out flu, avian flu and another common respiratory illnesses as a cause.

Police at the time said they had arrested and punished eight people ‘publishing or forwarding false information on the internet without verification.’

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 4,500.

Today, just one week later, there have been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimate that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. There are now 10 countries with confirmed cases and 26 people have died. 

Where does the virus come from?

Nobody knows for sure. 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.

Bats are a prime suspect – researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a recent statement: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.’

And another scientific journal article has suggested the virus first infected snakes, which may then have transmitted it to people at the market in Wuhan.

Peking University researchers analysed the genes of the coronavirus and said they most closely matched viruses which are known to affect snakes. They said: ‘Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,’ in the Journal of Medical Virology.

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.  

Guests today wore face masks at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa in Singapore following the confirmed new cases in the country

People in Hong Kong are picturing lining up to get free vitamin C tablets and bottles of hand sanitiser this morning


The deadly respiratory disease may be caught through the eyes.

Wang Guangfa, who heads the department of pulmonary medicine at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital, was part of a team of experts that earlier this month visited Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

The respiratory expert has claimed that he may have contracted the disease because of a lack of eye protection.

He says he developed conjunctivitis in his left eye after returning to Beijing and around three hours later he began suffering from a fever and catarrh – excessive discharge or build-up of mucus in the nose or throat. 

He said the most likely explanation of him contracting the virus was it entering through his eyes.

Paul Kellam, professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London, said this is ‘absolutely possible’.

‘If you have droplets sneezed at you, they will wash from your nose to your eye,’ he said.

‘Your eye connects to your nose through the lacrimal duct. 

‘If you suffer from allergies and if your eyes run, so will your nose. Or if you put medication in your eyes, you’ll taste at the back of your throat.

‘It isn’t unusual for flu and other viruses to be transmitted this way. You can also get respiratory infections through the eye.’

Professor Kellam said it is for this reason healthcare workers must wear eye protection. And even though face masks that protect the mouth and nose are effective, they clearly ‘won’t protect the eyes’.  

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 yesterday, 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?

Information has emerged today, Thursday, suggesting that the illness may spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and therefore close contact, kissing and sharing cutlery or utensils are risky. Because it infects the lungs, it is also likely present in droplets people cough up which, when inhaled, can infect the next person.

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.

Police officers wearing masks today checked a car for smuggled wild animals at an expressway toll station outside of Wuhan, on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations


Scientists warned in 2017 that a SARS-like virus could escape a lab set up that year in Wuhan, China, to study some of the most dangerous pathogens in the world. 

China installed the first of a planned five to seven biolabs designed for maximum safety in Wuhan in 2017, for the purpose of studying the most high-risk pathogens, including the Ebola and the SARS viruses.

Tim Trevan, a Maryland biosafety consultant, told Nature that year, when the lab was on the cusp of opening, that he worried China’s culture could make the institute unsafe because ‘structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important.’

In fact, the SARS virus had ‘escaped’ multiple times from a lab in Beijing, according to the Nature article.

The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory is located about 20 miles away from the Huanan Seafood Market and some have wondered if the outbreak’s epicenter is coincidental, but the scientific community currently believes that the virus mutated through and jumped to people through animal-human contact at the market.

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.

If and when they do, 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.

Sri Lankan airport officials stand next to a thermal scanner monitor that shows the temperature of passengers at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, pictured this morning

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 26 people out of a total of at least 800 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around three per cent. This is a higher death rate than 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. 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 have only been 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the death rate may be considerably lower.


Corpses of coronavirus victims are allegedly being left unattended in a corridor of a hospital flooded with patients in Wuhan as the Chinese city is ravaged by the deadly infection, it has been revealed.

The chilling scene, captured by a woman who claims to be a nurse, was posted to the country’s social media today but quickly censored.

In a post, the self-proclaimed medical worker described how patients were being sent in non-stop without any quarantine measures, warning that ‘everyone will end up being infected and dying’.

The now-removed video was shared onto Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, by a user known as ‘magic girl Xiao Xi’. It was believed to be filmed at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, one of the facilities appointed by the government to receive suspected and diagnosed coronavirus patients.  

In another shocking video, hundreds of people could be seen inside a Chinese hospital. It is unclear when the footage was taken – but it is claimed to be from the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.  

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.  

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 has not officially been confirmed as either an epidemic or a pandemic yet. This is likely because, despite the global concern, the number of people who have been confirmed to be infected is still relatively low.

A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

An epidemic is when a disease takes hold of a smaller community, such as a single country, region or continent.

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  • Posted on March 11, 2020