Coronavirus: UK patient is student at York university

One of the two people infected with the coronavirus in the UK is a student at the University of York, a spokesman said.

Health authorities are rushing to identify anyone who has come into contact with the pair.

The two patients, who are members of the same family, are currently being treated at a specialist hospital unit in Newcastle.

They had been staying at a hotel in York when they fell ill.

It comes as:

The University of York had been informed by Public Health England (PHE) that one of the two people to test positive for the virus was a student.

It said in a statement: "We want to reassure you that PHE has advised us that the risk of infection being passed to others on campus is low.

"Current information from PHE suggests that the student did not come into contact with anybody on campus whilst they had symptoms but PHE investigations are ongoing to fully establish this."

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It added: "The university continues to operate normally. We are monitoring the situation closely and we will continue to provide as much advice, care and support as we can to our university community."

The university has now set up a call centre to deal with queries from staff and students.

Anyone who has concerns or inquiries can contact 01904 809571.

Professor John Ashton, a former regional director at Public Health Northwest, told Sky News the government needs to communicate better with people about what is going on.

He said: "Somebody should be steering the path - between people being alert and realising that you need to be doing stuff to look after yourself and making sure your hygiene is good and if somebody does develop this virus they don't share it with other people - and panicking people.

"There's a feeling of panic around at the moment which is unnecessary. I think that we need the national level to sort out the communications because at the moment they seem to be not as good as they could be. We need a point of contact nationally, an authoritative voice."

The infected pair had been staying at the StayCity apartment-hotel in York when they became unwell.

It is understood they recently travelled to the UK from China.

The building, which was put on lockdown, has been thoroughly disinfected.

In a letter to guests, the StayCity group has sought to reassure them that, based on official advice, there is "minimum ongoing risk of infection" and it remained open for business.

However, it said it would "fully understand" if people wished to check-out.

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, said people who had come into contact with the confirmed cases were being traced.

"Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases," she said.

"This tried-and-tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public."

The PHE definition of close contact is being within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes.

Of the 203 tests in the UK, only two have been positive.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the two cases do not increase the risk to the UK and the virus remains "moderately transmissible".

It currently has a 2% mortality rate - considerably lower than the outbreaks of Ebola (70%) and SARS (10%).

He said the NHS is "extremely well-prepared" with "robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately".

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals' NHS Foundation Trust said other patients and visitors at the hospital where the two people are being treated should not be worried and attend appointments as usual.

Meanwhile, the government has said some employees at the embassy and consulates in China, along with their families, are being withdrawn, leaving behind only essential personnel to carry out "critical work".

It warned that if the crisis continued to worsen the ability to provide consular assistance to Britons in the country could be hit.

The move comes after the US ordered family members of embassy staff in China under the age of 21 to leave immediately.

The UK pullout follows the evacuation of 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals from Wuhan - the epicentre of the outbreak.

Touching down at Brize Norton RAF base in Oxfordshire on Friday, they were taken in a convoy of coaches to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, where they will be held in an isolation block for the next 14 days.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said everyone on the plane was a "well passenger".

While in quarantine, the evacuated Britons are being given fully furnished rooms, food, laundry facilities and have access to a team of medical staff.

Kitchens are also available and families are being kept together, with games consoles, toys and cots provided.

Sky News has obtained exclusive footage from inside the quarantine zone, where everyone can be seen wearing face masks to guard against infection.

The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday and said the spread of the virus outside China was a key factor behind its decision.

A total of 259 people have been killed by the virus in China, with the number of known cases stands at more than 11,000, as authorities around the world work to prevent a global pandemic.

There is no vaccine for the new viral infection, which can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.

The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

The virus originated in the Chinese central city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has since spread to every province across mainland China.

Many countries have said they plan to quarantine evacuees for two weeks to avoid spread of the virus, while Russia, Mongolia and North Korea are also to close their land borders with China.

Airports around the world have stepped up screening of travellers arriving from affected regions.

Measures are also in force in the UK to guard against the virus, including taking aircraft to a special designated area of Heathrow's Terminal 4.

The US has declared a public health emergency and announced significant entry restrictions, temporarily barring foreign nationals - other than immediate family of American citizens and permanent residents - who have travelled to China within the last 14 days.

And all three major US airlines - United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines - have announced the cancellation of flights to mainland China.

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