Two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, Public Health England has said.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.”
He said they were being treated at a specialist infectious diseases unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, and said PHE had upgraded the risk to the public from “low” to “moderate” due to the changing global picture.
Prof Whitty said the two cases do not increase the risk to the UK and that the virus remains “moderately transmissible” and 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”, and was already working rapidly to contain the virus by tracing people the two patients have been in contact with.
“Nevertheless, if we got very large numbers that is obviously a concern and this would be something we would have to take very seriously,” he said.
Prof Whitty added: “We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”
It comes just hours after the WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency, and said the spread of the virus outside China was a key factor behind its decision.
Its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is time for science, not rumours. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”