Coronavirus latest: 'Many more' may be forced to self-isolate as virus spreads in UK

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
  • London GP surgery closed 

  • Nine confirmed cases in the UK

  • Tube could spread virus more quickly, say experts

  • Baby boy feared to be among victims

  • London virus victim took herself to hospital by Uber

The NHS’s top doctor has warned that “many more” UK citizens may be forced to self-quarantine as coronavirus spreads in the UK.

Sir Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England and NHS Improvement, issued the warning as more than 80 people quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral were allowed to leave following 14 days in isolation.

He said: “As our first group of guests leaves Arrowe Park Hospital, we want to thank them for the highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical way they have played their part in keeping both themselves and others safe.

“They have set an important example, recognising that over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus’s spread.”

Guests expressed their joy and gratitude as they left the isolation unit, based in NHS staff accommodation, on Thursday afternoon.

One man shouted on release: “We’re free!” as he left isolation after testing negative for coronavirus.

Matt Raw, 38, was one of 83 people allowed to leave isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral, after being kept at the facility following their return from Wuhan, China.

Matt Raw, a UK national who returned from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China, leaves Arrowe Park Hospital where he spent two weeks in quarantine (PA)

He raised his fist as he was let out through locked gates surrounding the apartment block where he has been staying and said: “We’re free … and the sun’s shining.”

Earlier doctors warned how the London Underground could spread the coronavirus more quickly, as it emerged that an eight-month-old baby may be the youngest suspected case in the UK.

The baby is said to have “all the symptoms” of the deadly infection after the little boy and his mother were quarantined in their home after being treated by one of two infected Brighton GPs.

The infant’s father believes his four-year-old daughter has also been exposed. The family were taken to A&E in Worthing, West Sussex, to be tested for the virus on Wednesday and are expected to get the results on Friday.

The London Underground could be a hotbed for the spread of coronavirus, doctors warned (PA)

The father, who was not named, told the Daily Telegraph: "We're in hell, completely petrified. My ex-partner keeps breaking down in tears.

“We’re staying in the house and giving the kids Calpol and paracetamol, but nothing's working.

“My little boy has haemophilia and a lung condition, so he’s already poorly."

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK so far (PA)

The suspected case comes as a ninth person in the UK – and the first person in the capital – tested positive for the deadly infection on Wednesday.

According to reports in the Guardian, the London coronavirus victim “self-presented” at Lewisham Hospital after arriving in an Uber.

Two hospital staff members are now in isolation at home after coming into contact with the woman, a Chinese national who had recently arrived from China.

There are also concerns the capital’s transport hub could exacerbate the spread of the virus, however doctors have said the risk of infection for residents in the capital remains low.

A sign at the entrance of the County Oak Medical Centre GP practice in Brighton (PA)


Dr Robin Thompson of 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.”

Read more: Hunt to track down patients who came into contact with coronavirus GPs

Dr Michael Head, from the University of Southampton, added: "It should also be noted that of the 1,750 tests carried out so far in the UK, over 99% of those tested have been negative for the coronavirus.

"Thus, risks to Londoners and UK residents remain low, though people should continue to keep an eye on guidance for the general public.”

Confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world (PA)

While the latest person to test positive for coronavirus has now been quarantined at a specialist NHS centre at Guy's and St Thomas' in London, Dr Thompson says the risk of the virus spreading depends on the woman's interactions prior to being placed in isolation.

"The key factor here is the number of contacts that this infected individual has had prior to being isolated," he said.

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

Read more: How to wash your hands to ward off coronavirus

As Public Health England investigates the patient's movements, Dr Nathalie MacDermott from the National Institute for Health Research said London commuters should continue to go about their business as usual.

"Provided the individual followed the government's advice (to self-isolate) there should be little concern of transmission to the general public in London," she said.

A ninth case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the UK after a patient was taken to St Thomas' hospital in south London on Wednesday. (PA)
It is understood two prisoners at HMP Bullingdon have tested negative for coronavirus. (PA)

New cases

The number of new coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China may peak by the end of the month, researchers estimate.

The outbreak of Covid-19 could reach its peak as between mid and late February, according to preliminary estimates from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Residents wait to enter a checkpoint with a sign which reads "Returnees to Beijing registration point" in Beijing, China (AP)
A shopper wearing a face mask walks past empty supermarket shelves in Hong Kong (PA)

There have been more than 44,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than a thousand deaths – the vast majority in China where it started.

The researchers used a model to estimate the average number of people who were likely to have caught the disease from one infected person over time.