Scotland

China coronavirus: Incident team to deal with Scottish threat

People wearing masks in Beijing Image copyright EPA
Image caption People are taking precautions around the world

An incident team has been set up to deal with the threat of coronavirus in Scotland after it was confirmed five people are being tested for the virus.

The Scottish government said the tests were a precaution and experts would be monitoring the situation daily.

Globally there are more than 800 confirmed cases of the virus which has killed 26 people in China.

BBC Scotland understands that one of the patients is a Chinese student who is being treated in Edinburgh.

He is believed to have first been in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary before being transferred to the Western, where the Regional Infectious Diseases Unit is located.

The man is thought to have become unwell after visiting family in Wuhan, the suspected source of the outbreak.

It is not known where the other patients are being treated.

Downing Street said four of them were believed to be Chinese nationals.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People coming out of Wuhan were being checked for fever

The Scottish government said two of those being tested had already been diagnosed with flu. Three others were being tested on a precautionary basis.

There are currently no confirmed case of coronavirus in the UK and the risk to the Scottish public remains low, a government spokesman added.

All those being tested in Scotland have respiratory symptoms and have been in the Chinese city of Wuhan, thought to be the source of the outbreak, in the last 14 days.

They are among 14 people in the UK who have been tested, according to Public Health England. Five have tested negative and nine are waiting for results.

Samples are being sent in category A transport to a laboratory in London for urgent testing.

The Scottish government said it would provide updates of any confirmed cases of coronavirus, but it would not provide a "running update" on cases being considered on a precautionary basis.

A spokesman added: "We are co-orientating with Health Protection Scotland a daily incident management team to continue to monitor the situation as it develops, including on the number of any potential cases going forward."

Image caption Prof Juergen Haas said it was "very likely" that there would be confirmed cases in the UK

Prof Juergen Haas, Edinburgh University's head of infection medicine said it was "very likely" that cases would be confirmed in the UK.

"In any European countries there is a danger that these cases occur," he 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."

He warned that the spread of the virus might increase as more people travelled around for Chinese New Year, within China and to other countries.

Any suspected cases have to be isolated and staff dealing with them must wear protective clothes including gloves, masks and goggles.

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk.

How is the outbreak affecting Chinese students in Scotland?

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  • Dundee University has 34 students from Wuhan studying in Dundee as a result of its partnership with Wuhan University. Five members of staff returned from a visit to Wuhan last week. No health concerns have been raised.
  • Aberdeen University said five of its staff members visited Wuhan recently. Four returned to the university three or more weeks ago while the fourth is working from home as a precautionary measure.
  • Any students who have been in China, or other areas where incidents of infection have been reported, within the last 14 days, and are experiencing respiratory symptoms, should contact their GP or NHS 24.
  • Students should be careful if receiving packages from areas where the virus is present, especially if they contain food items.

Nicola Sturgeon was questioned about the risk to people in Scotland at First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

She said the situation was being closely monitored, adding: "I should say, that the risk to the public here in Scotland - and indeed the UK - is currently classified as low but that is kept under review."

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust research charity and an expert on disease in Asia, told BBC Scotland the outbreak in China was "very, very concerning".

"China is facing a real crisis," he said. "This is now spreading across China and we are likely to see a lot more of this epidemic before it stops."

The city of Wuhan, where 11 million people live, is effectively on lockdown: all bus, subway and ferry services have been suspended and all outbound planes and trains cancelled.

Residents have been advised not to leave, and roadblocks have been reported.

Travel restrictions are also in place across 10 cities, affecting 20 million people.

The virus has spread to the US, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea.

The new strain of coronavirus is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan. One resident of the city said the atmosphere felt like "the end of the world".


Learn more about the new virus

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