China’s health minister has warned that the outbreak of coronavirus which has already killed 56 people worldwide appears to be getting stronger.
Ma Xiaowei said that the virus’s ability to spread was increasing and warned that officials were not clear about the risks of the virus mutating.
He added that it was likely the number of cases would continue to rise and confirmed that there have been 2,057 cases of coronavirus globally.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned the spread of a deadly new virus is accelerating.
During a special government meeting on the Lunar New Year public holiday he told officials China is facing a “grave situation”.
It comes as the British government warned its nationals to leave he Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Foreign Office updated its guidance to “advise against all travel to Hubei province”, which has been on lockdown for several days as China seeks to contain the illness.
But the guidance also added: “If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.”
It came as the number of people tested for coronavirus in the UK passed 30 – although there are still no confirmed cases.
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As of Saturday afternoon, 31 people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been tested for the deadly flu-like virus, but all tests have come back negative, according to the Department of Health (DoH).
There are also no confirmed diagnoses in UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is still classed as low.
Meanwhile, health officials are continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan, the area of China worst affected by the outbreak.
The DoH confirmed it is trying to find “as many passengers as we can” who arrived from the region in the past two weeks to check on their wellbeing.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was a “fair chance” cases would emerge in Britain as the overall number reported around the world climbed to around 2,000 including 56 deaths, which have all occurred in China.
The professor spoke following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee in Whitehall on Friday, chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
He said: “I am working closely with the other UK chief medical officers.
“We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage.”
He added: “The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.
“A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today. This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures.”