First Suspected Coronavirus Cases In UK As Flu Patients Undergo Urgent Testing

More than a dozen people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus, as the health secretary said there is an “increased likelihood” of cases occurring.

Fourteen people in the UK have been tested with five confirmed negative and nine still awaiting the results, Public Health England has said.

PHE would not give a breakdown of where the people were tested and where the negative results were recorded.

The update follows five people in Scotland and one in Belfast being tested for the mystery illness as there were fears of more cases in other cities across the country, the head of infection medicine at the University of Edinburgh confirmed.

Professor Juergen Haas said tests are currently being carried out and none of the patients, at least three of whom are Chinese nationals, have been confirmed as having the disease.

Three travelled to Scotland from Wuhan, where the outbreak is thought to have originated, within the past two weeks and are showing symptoms of respiratory trouble, a red flag for the virus.

The other patient is being tested to rule out coronavirus at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, it is understood.

The patient arrived at the hospital showing symptoms which may be associated with the condition but it will be some time before test results are returned.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, located in Govan, Glasgow. (Photo: georgeclerk via Getty Images)

Professor Haas told the PA news agency the cases emerged overnight, adding: “The situation will be pretty similar in pretty much all UK cities with a large number of Chinese students.

“It’s not too surprising. My suspicious is that there will probably be many more cases in many other cities in the UK. None of the cases I know of have been confirmed.”

He said there is only one laboratory testing for the virus, operated by Public Health England (PHE).

Haas had initially said four people in Scotland were being tested. 

The outbreak has killed 25 people and infected 830 in China as authorities around the world work to prevent a global pandemic.

On Thursday evening the World Health Organisation’s emergency committee has said it is “too early” to declare an international public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said: “Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

New cases were also reported in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Vietnam on Thursday.

Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed train station, in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Most transport in Wuhan, a city of 11m, was suspended on Thursday and people were told not to leave. Hours later, neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about 7m people, announced a similar lockdown.

On Thursday, before the UK cases were reported, health secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS is “ready to respond appropriately” and that while “there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them”.

He said England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, is in contact with international experts and his counterparts to monitor the situation.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.