Coronavirus outbreak: UK among countries at 'high-risk' from spread of disease

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Chinese police officer and medical workers wearing protective clothing board a plane to check the body temperatures of the passengers onboard for prevention of the new coronavirus and pneumonia at Putuoshan Airport during the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival holiday in Zhoushan City, east China's Zhejiang Province on January 28th, 2020. (Photo by Zou Xunyong / Costfoto/Sipa USA)
Police officers and medical workers check passengers leaving an infected Chinese city. (PA)

The UK is among the most likely countries to be infected with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, a study has found.

Experts in population mapping at the University of Southampton compiled a list of cities and nations they believe are at “high risk” from the virus - which has already killed over 100 people.

Britain was 17th on the list, based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive there from the worst affected cities in mainland China.

Researchers believe over 190,000 air passengers will travel to the UK from 18 high-risk Chinese population hubs in the next three months.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the launch a General Election campaign poster highlighting Jeremy Corbyn's indecision in Westminster, London.
Matt Hancock has called for people who have returned to the UK from Wuhan to “self-isolate”. (PA)

Among the other western nations to make the list, only the US, sixth, Germany, 15th and Canada 16th are more vulnerable to the outbreak.

According to the study, Thailand is most at risk - with researchers predicting over two million people from the infected areas will attempt to enter the country.

Hong Kong, which announced on Tuesday it would be severing transport links with China, is second on the list of high-risk cities.

London, meanwhile, is 19th on the list of 30 cities, just behind New York and Los Angeles in the US.


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Andrew Tatem, a professor at the University of Southampton, said: “It’s vital that we understand patterns of population movement, both within China and globally, in order to assess how this new virus might spread.”

“By mapping these trends and identifying high-risk areas, we can help inform public health interventions, such as screenings and healthcare preparedness.”

Dr Shengjie Lai of the University of Southampton added: “The spread of the new coronavirus is a fast moving situation.

“We are closely monitoring the epidemic in order to provide further up-to-date analysis on the likely spread, including the effectiveness of the transport lockdown in Chinese cities and transmission by people returning from the Lunar New Year holiday, which has been extended to 2 February.”

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for people who have returned to the UK from Wuhan to “self-isolate” even if they have no symptoms.

He said officials could not be 100% certain the virus is not spread by people who are not displaying symptoms.

The move means more than 1,400 people who have returned from Wuhan since January 10 should isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of leaving China.

Some 1,561 people are now known to have entered the UK from Wuhan since January 10, including airline crew, although some have since left again.

Just 10% of these people supplied an email address to the airline and have been contacted with advice on what to do if they feel ill.

Mr Hancock said Public Health England officials are trying to trace the others.

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