The United Kingdom’s (UK) Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today (10 February) new measures in England to curb the spread of the virus, including keeping people in “supported isolation for their own safety”.
“The Secretary of State declares that the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health,” the health ministry said in a statement.
“Measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus,” it added.
The UK has so far confirmed four cases of the virus, compared to more than 40,000 globally, mostly in China. China has also confirmed about 908 deaths resulting from the virus, much higher than the number of deaths reported during the SARS outbreak back in 2002 to 2003.
CityAM quoted the National Health Services (NHS) chief medical officer, Chris Witty as saying, “We are now using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus.”
“The NHS is extremely well prepared to manage these cases and treat them, and we are working quickly to identify any further contacts the patient has had,” he added.
“This patient followed NHS advice by self-isolating rather than going to A&E.”
Following the Health Secretary’s announcement of the virus as a public threat, Arrowe Park Hospital and Kents Hill Park conference centres have been designated as “isolation facilities” in the UK.
This follows the return of two repatriation flights bringing home British and foreign nationals from the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province where the virus first emerged. About 200 people were evacuated on the final flight chartered by the UK’s Foreign Office and arrived at the Royal Air Force Brize Norton on Sunday. These evacuees were immediately quarantined at Kents Hill Park for 14 days. Those who had arrived earlier are currently isolated at Arrowe Park Hospital.
“We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public,” said a Department of Health spokesperson, reported BBC News.
“This measure will rightly make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the country.”