Coronavirus Screening in UK as China warns deadly virus is ‘mutating’ which causes severe lung disease.
A warning comes as 440 cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Wednesday, including 15 medical personnel.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News a “separate area” is being set up for flights that come direct from the affected region to Heathrow.
The Department of Health announced there will be an “enhanced monitoring” package in place for all direct flights from China to the UK because of the threat of coronavirus.
In a statement, the government said the measures will include:
- A health team to meet each direct flight from Wuhan to London Heathrow
- Passengers on flights will hear an announcement and be given a leaflet to encourage them to report if they are ill
- Aircraft will land in an isolated area of Heathrow Terminal 4 that “better lends itself to any health contingencies”
There are currently three direct flights a week from Wuhan to London Heathrow.
Other airports around the world step up screening of travellers arriving from affected regions at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese officials say there have been cases of the virus spreading from one person to another, with some healthcare workers becoming infected after caring for patients with the same illness.
This is a concern with new viruses that infect the lungs, as coughs and sneezes are a highly effective way for a virus to spread.
While the outbreak is centred on Wuhan, there have been cases reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Those people travelled from Wuhan recently.
Experts say there could be more cases going undetected.
Public Health England (PHE) is monitoring the situation with international partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO). PHE has also issued advice to travellers ahead of Chinese New Year this month.
Prof Woolhouse says it is because of the size and density of the population and close contact with animals harbouring viruses.
“No-one is surprised the next outbreak is in China or that part of the world,” he says.
What is this virus?
Viral samples have been taken from patients and analysed in the laboratory. The cases have been linked to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.
And officials in China and the World Health Organization (WHO) have concluded the infection is a coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which is caused by a coronavirus, killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected in an outbreak that started in China in 2002.
They jump from one species, where they went unnoticed, into humans.
“If we think about outbreaks in the past, if it is a new coronavirus, it will have come from an animal reservoir,” says Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham.
Is it serious?
Coronaviruses can cause symptoms ranging from a mild cold all the way through to death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will also consider on Wednesday whether to declare an international public health emergency over the virus – as it did with swine flu and Ebola.