A GP surgery in Brighton has been closed after a member of staff tested positive for the coronavirus, hours after the government declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
The declaration gives the government legal powers to forcibly quarantine and isolate people considered to pose a threat to public health and is in response to reports a British patient threatened to “abscond” from an isolation unit where people flown back from Wuhan, China – the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak – are being held.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the new powers were “an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission” of the virus, as the number of confirmed cases in the UK doubled to eight.
Patients of the shut down GP surgery in Brighton have been advised to call the NHS 111 phone service and Reuters report the telephone message of the County Oak Medical Centre says: “Unfortunately, the building has had to close due to an urgent operational health and safety reason.”
4 new cases linked to British man
All four of the new coronavirus cases recorded in the UK are being linked to an unidentified British businessman who tested positive for the virus in Brighton four days ago (February 6) and is being treated at St Thomas’s Hospital, London.
The man had stayed at the ski chalet in the French resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie where five British nationals – including a nine-year-old child – have also tested positive for the coronavirus.
French health minister Agnès Buzyn has confirmed another six British nationals are under observation in French hospitals, and that two schools visited by the nine-year have been closed as a precaution, reports the Guardian.
Concerns over Coronavirus ‘super spreader’
The paper says the middle-aged businessman from Hove, Sussex was exposed to the virus at a conference in Singapore, held from January 20-22, which included one delegate from Wuhan, out of a total 109.
It is believed the man infected at least 11 Britons in three countries in the days after the conference “prompting concerns about the danger posed by so-called super spreaders”.
The middle-aged man flew to the French ski resort from Singapore and stayed with his family (Jan 24-28) before returning to the UK on January 28, on a busy easyJet flight from Geneva to Gatwick. He visited a local pub – The Grenadier in Hove – on February 1 and only alerted public health authorities when he was informed by the conference organisers that another delegate had tested positive.
Health officials scrambled to contact everyone he has been in contact with and five workers at the Grenadier pub have been told to self-isolate.
More cases linked to the businessman emerged on Sunday and Public Health England (PHE) confirmed another patient tested positive having contracted the virus in France. Another British man, resident in Mallorca and who was at the same French ski-resort near Mont Blanc until January 29, has also tested positive.
Coronavirus risk is still ‘moderate’
The government said the risk level for the virus is still classed as “moderate” and that the new powers to quarantine and isolate people announced today, will “make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the country.”
A spokesman for the health department said: “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.”
The number of recorded deaths from coronavirus in China has passed 900 – exceeding the death toll of the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak, with more than 40,000 cases of coronavirus recorded globally.