As of 1st February 2020, over 12,000 cases of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) originating in the Hubei Province of China have been confirmed, and the death toll has reached 304 victims. This form of coronavirus is previously unseen in humans and exactly how it is spread remains unknown, although similar viruses spread via cough droplets. Misinformation about the virus has been rife on social media, amid a panic created by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) declaration of a ‘global public health emergency’. Although the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, so far only 2 people have tested positive in the UK.
The coronavirus is suspected to originate from an animal source, possibly snakes, with early cases traced to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Symptoms of the coronavirus include a cough, a high temperature and difficulty breathing. Most people infected experience only mild symptoms and make a full recovery, with the mortality rate of the virus currently 2%. However as a newly emerging virus there is currently no vaccine. Those who have died typically had underlying health conditions resulting in already compromised immune systems at the point of contracting the virus.
Medical staff in Hubei Province and elsewhere in China have warned of potential shortages of medical supplies including protective masks and suits. According to Chinese state media by Thursday 30th January more than 900 tonnes of medical and living supplies have been transported to Hubei province to manage the outbreak. Furthermore, an additional 6000 medical staff from around China are expected to arrive in Wuhan to staff two makeshift hospitals where over 10,000 beds are under construction.
Despite the coronavirus having spread to more than 20 countries the majority of cases remain in Wuhan, and therefore for their protection on Friday 31st January 83 British citizens and 27 others were evacuated from Hubei Province. The British citizens have been taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral to spend 2 weeks in quarantine. This period of isolation accommodates the incubation period of the coronavirus which ranges from 2 to 10 days, allowing medical professionals to prevent the spread of the virus. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to mainland China, with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic having suspended all flights. Concern has been expressed for British nationals in China outside of Wuhan, but there are not yet plans to evacuate any other provinces.