Further case of coronavirus brings UK total to four as repatriation flight arrives

Another person has tested positive for coronavirus in England, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to four.

The latest patient diagnosed had come into contact with a previously confirmed UK case and is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London, Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said.

The new case comes after another plane carrying British citizens evacuated from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan landed in Oxfordshire.

The flight, with more than 200 people on board, including some foreign nationals, arrived at RAF Brize Norton shortly before 7.30am on Sunday.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was the second and final flight to be chartered by the Government and had British Government staff and military medics on board.

Also on Sunday, it was announced a British man in Mallorca has tested positive for the virus.

The man's wife and daughters have tested negative and are not showing any symptoms of the disease.

Members of staff wait as coaches carrying Coronavirus evacuees arrive at Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre in Milton Keynes. Credit: PA

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the repatriation flight had brought back 105 British nationals and family members, as well as 95 European nationals and family members.

A total of 13 staff and medics were also on board.

After landing at Brize Norton, the passengers were taken to Kents Hill Park hotel and conference centre in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

Prof Whitty said the NHS is "extremely well prepared" to manage and treat cases of the coronavirus in the UK and is "working quickly to identify any further contacts the patient has had".

Speaking on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick added the NHS is "ready" for any outbreak that could occur as it is "always preparing itself for emergencies, or situations of extreme pressure and this is no exception".

An aircraft repatriating British and other nationalities to the UK arrives in Oxfordshire. Credit: PA

Their return comes as the death toll in China from has risen to 811, surpassing SARS fatalities in the 2002-2003 outbreak.

China’s National Health Commission said total cases in the country from the virus had increased to to 37,198, up from 34,546 a day earlier.

However, the number of new cases reported over the 24 hours to Sunday morning fell significantly from the previous period, which experts believe shows the spread of the virus may be slowing.

Another 89 deaths were reported on Sunday, while 2,656 new cases were added, down from the 3,399 cases reported for the previous 24 hours.

The outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide.

Like the new virus, it also originated in China.

Last week, Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming appeared to criticise governments – including the UK’s – for travel restrictions.

Britons in mainland China have been urged to leave by the Foreign Office.

However, the UK’s ambassador to China, Dame Barbara Woodward, told ITV News this advice has not impacted on the relationship between the two countries.

  • The UK’s ambassador to China, Dame Barbara Woodward, says the UK-China relationship remains strong

“The UK-China relationship is broad and strong, we’ve already got cooperation in healthcare and we were able to draw down on that as soon as we heard about the virus,” she said.

She added the Queen has sent a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Thousands of Chinese tourists are reportedly stranded in Bali. Credit: AP

As more cases of the virus emerged worldwide, France announced it would close two schools in the Alps after five British citizens, including a nine-year-old child, were confirmed to have caught the disease at a French ski resort.

Saturday’s announcement of the five new cases in France at the height of the ski season is the latest example of how the tentacles of the virus can easily spread across multiple borders.

The five British citizens were staying in a chalet in the Alpine ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc, and were in close contact with another Briton who apparently contracted the virus in Singapore, travelled to the French Alps and tested positive for the virus on returning to Britain, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told reporters.

That brings the total number of virus cases in France to 11.

Britain has four confirmed cases.

Commuters at a subway station in Bangkok wear facemasks. Credit: AP

The five British citizens with new cases of the virus are being held in Lyon-area hospitals, along with six other Britons who were in close contact with them and are now being monitored, the French health ministry said.

The chalet where they were staying housed a British family that lives in Contamines and another family of British holidayers.

The ill child lives in Contamines and attends a local school, and took French classes at another local school, regional officials told a news conference on Saturday.

Both schools will be closed, and the pupils will be monitored for signs of the virus.

Local officials sought to reassure tourists descending this weekend on one of the world’s most prized ski areas that all preventive measures were being taken to stem the further spread of the virus.

Confirmed cases. Credit: PA

“This cluster of cases in France illustrates how the coronavirus can spread to countries indirectly of China.

"The French ski resort will have citizens from numerous other countries there, so there are implications for potential onward transmission,” said Dr. Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton.

After a special virus meeting on Saturday, the French government decided to harden its travel warning for China, cautioning against all travel there unless in case of “imperative” need.

Passengers from the cruise ship World Dream, docked in Hong Kong, wave to family members on shore. Credit: AP

Also on Sunday, all the 3,600 staff and holidaymakers quarantined on a cruise ship off Hong Kong were allowed to disembark after tests came back negative.

The ship had been placed under quarantine since it docked Wednesday after eight mainland Chinese passengers on a voyage last month were diagnosed with the new strand of coronavirus.

Port officials on Sunday said that tests on all 1,800 crew members were completed ahead of schedule and were negative.

They said some passengers with symptoms tested negative but there was no need to test all of them because they had no contact with the infected Chinese passengers.

There are 26 virus cases in Hong Kong, which has sealed almost all its border checkpoints with mainland China and imposed a quarantine on all arrivals from the mainland in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

Passengers leave the World Dream cruise ship. Credit: AP

In China, the ruling Communist Party is facing anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease more than a month ago.

Following an online uproar over the government’s treatment of Dr Li Wenliang, the Communist Party struck a conciliatory note, saying it is sending a team to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public”.

Dr Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, contracted the virus while treating patients, and his death was confirmed early on Friday.