Coronavirus to hit UK ‘in days’ – with NHS given instructions on handling bodies

A senior government source has warned that the deadly coronavirus could hit the UK 'in a matter of days'.

It comes as the NHS has been put on high alert as the country braces for the outbreak to potentially hit – with three cases already confirmed in Europe.

There is yet to be a confirmed case in the UK, however 31 people have been tested and given the all-clear.

The coronavirus has killed at least 56 people and infected almost 2,000 since its discovery in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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And officials are trying to trace around 2,000 people who have flown in to the UK from the city in the past fortnight.

It has now emerged that Public Health England has issued an 11-page guide to hospitals on symptoms and how to handle the virus.

A senior Government source told the  Mail on Sunday last night: "We are determined to lead the world in the response to this.

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"We are accelerating our plans for dealing with the virus when it finally arrives here."

The source added the first positive UK test is expected "within days".

Meanwhile, NHS staff are being given specific instructions on handling "infectious" bodies and told that victims may pose a “minor risk” even after they die.

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In the PHE guide, seen by  The Sunday Times, staff were told: "The act of moving a recently deceased patient onto a hospital trolley for transportation to the mortuary might be sufficient to expel small amounts of air from the lungs and thereby present a minor risk.

“A body bag should be used for transferring the body and those handling the body at this point should use full PPE [personal protective equipment]."

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Staff who meet potential victims are told to wear “full-face visors”.

The dossier adds: “In the absence of effective drugs or a vaccine, control of this disease relies on the prompt identification, appropriate risk assessment, management and isolation of possible cases.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, described the crisis as “a new and rapidly evolving situation”.

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A handful of cases have been reported outside China, including in Thailand, Australia, the United States and France, with health authorities around the world racing to prevent a pandemic.

China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the virus can range from one to 14 days, and the virus is infectious during incubation.

The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

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Hong Kong has six confirmed cases.

On Sunday, China announced a temporary nationwide ban on the sale of wildlife in markets,  restaurants, and e-commerce platforms.

Wild and often poached animals packed together in Chinese markets are blamed as incubators for viruses to evolve and jump the species barrier to humans.

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The World Health Organisation this week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts question whether China can continue to contain the epidemic.

No fatalities have been reported outside China. The outbreak has prompted widening curbs on movements within China, with Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on virtual lockdown, with transports links all-but severed except for emergency vehicles.

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Britons trapped in the Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak have been urged to leave the area if they are able to do so.

The Foreign Office updated its guidance to "advise against all travel to Hubei province".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government was "looking at all options" to help Britons leave Wuhan following reports that officials have been asked to examine the logistics for an airlift from the city.

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