London Underground could be a hotbed for coronavirus, doctors say

Connor Sephton, news reporter

Doctors have warned that the London Underground could be a hotbed for the coronavirus - hours after a confirmed case emerged in the capital.

A total of nine people in the UK are now being treated for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The latest patient, who is being treated at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, is believed to be a woman who flew into London from China.

There are concerns that the city's extensive transport links could exacerbate the spread of the virus, but doctors have stressed that the risk of infection remains low.

Dr Robin Thompson, from Oxford University, said: "In general, if an initial case is in a densely populated area, then the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission following is higher.

"This is exacerbated by the fact that London is a transport hub, and the Underground could provide a network to spread the virus quickly.

"As a result, given this case was in London, it might be expected that there is an increased risk posed by this case compared to the others we have seen."

Dr Michael Head, from the University of Southampton, said the risk of the virus spreading will depend on the woman's interactions before she was placed into isolation.

"If this is low, then the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is also low," he explained.

Public Health England has admitted that more cases of COVID-19 in the UK are "highly likely" - but Dr Nathalie MacDermott, from the National Institute for Health Research, has said commuters should go about their business as normal.

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Quarantine ends

More than 80 Britons who were flown back from coronavirus-hit Wuhan are going to be freed from quarantine today.

Health minister Baroness Blackwood has told Sky News that they pose absolutely no risk to the public as they have passed the incubation period and have showed no symptoms.

The group were the first to be repatriated from the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak and have spent the past two weeks at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside.

A patient had threatened to abscond from the isolation unit earlier this week - prompting the government to unveil new powers that would allow people to be forcibly quarantined if they pose a threat to public health.

Those in quarantine are now packing their bags and preparing to head home, with one of the Britons affected saying he "cannot wait" to see his friends and family.

Kharn Lambert told Sky News: "Obviously there is still a little bit of concern - albeit very minimal - that people might show negativity towards you, and might try and avoid you if they can.

"I'm not too worried about that - I have a lot of good friends and family and have met good people over the past two weeks.

"My biggest concern is for members of the Chinese community who have been receiving abuse."

Two GPs among UK cases

Details have been emerging about the two GPs who are among the nine people in the UK with COVID-19.

Officials know the pair worked at a nursing home, the A&E unit at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex, and two GP practices between them.

Public Health England says it has traced and advised all those who have come into close contact with the two GPs, including about 12 patients.

Meanwhile, in Brighton, pupils at several schools have been told they could stay at home after reports some teachers and families feared they had come into contact with the virus.