A GP practice in Brighton has closed after a member of staff tested positive for coronavirus, it is reported.
The County Oak medical centre in Brighton closed this afternoon, urging patients to contact the NHS 111 phone service with any health concerns.
It came as the government upgraded coronavirus to a “serious and imminent” threat to UK public health to give itself greater powers to tackle it.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are taking a belt and braces approach to all necessary precautions to ensure public safety.”
The medical centre’s telephone number goes straight to voicemail, which says:
Unfortunately the building has had to close due to an urgent operational health and safety reason.
For non-urgent medical advice, please call 111, or if you feel in need or urgent medical assistance, please call 999.
The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment. City A.M. has approached the NHS for comment.
Meanwhile a school in Southampton was reportedly evacuated over fears pupils may have caught coronavirus. And Brackley Medical Centre in Northamptonshire said it has also closed as a precautionary measure.
It said the closure was “due to a potential coronavirus incident”, before reopening “following the surgery being cleaned in line with national protocols and guidelines”.
Number of UK coronavirus cases doubles to eight
It came as the number of UK coronavirus cases doubled from four to eight today, with the new cases all linked to a Brighton man who caught the virus at a conference in Singapore. He then travelled to a ski resort in France.
Two of the confirmed patients are healthcare workers, Sky News reported.
The Brighton man – the UK’s third confirmed coronavirus case – is suspected of being a so-called super spreader. They are linked to at least seven confirmed cases in England, France and Spain.
The latest four Brits to contract coronavirus cases all became infected in France at the ski resort via contact with the man from Brighton.
The four new patients were transferred to London hospitals for specialist treatment. They are being treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ infectious disease unit, and another unit at The Royal Free hospital.
One of the new patients, a man, is a doctor who was with the group skiing in the French Alps resort, according to the Guardian.
Two of the four latest Brits to be infected were widely reported to be Bob Saynor and his nine-year-old son.
They came into contact with the UK’s third coronavirus patient at a French Alps ski resort, Les Contamines-Montjoie. They had shared a chalet with the man, who passed on the coronavirus.
Coronavirus risk upgraded to ‘moderate’
The Department of Health today said it has conducted a total of 1,114 tests on Brits for coronavirus. Of those, 1,106 returned negative and eight have now tested positive for the virus.
The risk to the general public has now been raised from low to moderate, with the Department of Health saying: “This permits the government to plan for all eventualities.”
However, it added that the risk to individuals “remains low”.
The UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said:
Four further patients in England have tested positive for novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight.
The new cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France.
Experts at Public Health England continue to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases. They successfully identified these individuals and ensured the appropriate support was provided.
The patients have been transferred to specialist NHS centres at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and The Royal Free hospitals, and we are now using robust infection control measures to prevent further spread of the virus. The NHS is extremely well prepared to manage these cases and treat them, and we are working quickly to identify any further contacts these patients have had.
‘Serious and imminent threat’
The UK today declared coronavirus as a “serious and imminent” threat to public health, a move that gives the government greater powers to tackle it.
“The secretary of state declares that the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health,” the Department of Health and Social Care said.
“Measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus,” the health ministry added.
The move has allowed the government to designate the Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside and Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes as “isolation” facilities. Brits flown back from Wuhan over the weekend are currently in a two-week quarantine at Arrowe Park.
And the government now sees Wuhan and the wider Hubei province, where coronavirus originated, as an “infected area”.
The decision to treat coronavirus as an imminent threat gives the government new legal powers to forcibly quarantine people and send them into isolation.
According to the PA news agency, the decision was in response to one Brit attempting to leave isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital.
The news agency cited a government source who said “there was someone who was threatening to abscond from Arrowe Park”.
All the Britons who returned on the evacuation flight from Wuhan signed a contract agreeing to a 14-day quarantine period, which ends on Thursday.
Coronavirus death toll climbs
The UK’s announcement came just hours after China revealed its death toll now stands at 908, and 40,171 infections in mainland China. That represents a jump of 97 new deaths and 3,062 new cases reported yesterday.
“We are now using robust infection control measures to prevent any possible further spread of the virus,” Witty said yesterday.
“The NHS is extremely well prepared to manage these cases and treat them, and we are working quickly to identify any further contacts the patient has had.
“This patient followed NHS advice by self-isolating rather than going to A&E.”
Coronavirus more deadly than Sars
The latest death toll means the new coronavirus strain, dubbed 2019-nCoV, is now more deadly than Sars (secure acute respiratory syndrome). Sars claimed 774 lives in the 2003 outbreak.
Both are from the same family of coronavirus and originated in China. So far, almost all deaths related to the latest coronavirus threat have come in mainland China. Hong Kong has reported one death and the Philippines has suffered another.
The coronavirus has now spread to 24 countries. Those are: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cambodia, Finland, France, Malaysia, Japan, Italy, Germany, India, Russia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Sweden, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the US and China.
A group of international experts led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is now travelling to Beijing to help investigate the epidemic.
The WHO declared a global emergency on 30 January after initially only calling it an emergency for China.
Beijing has attempted to lock down Wuhan and the wider Hubei province, where tens of millions of people reside, to prevent the virus spreading further.
The WHO team now travelling to Beijing will attempt to work out how the virus spreads and how severe the current outbreak is.
The coronavirus is believed to have spread from illegal trade at a seafood market in Wuhan in December.
Coronavirus cases spread on cruise ship
Meanwhile, Japan said 130 people quarantined on the docked Diamond Princess cruise ship now carry the coronavirus, out of 3,600 on board, a jump of 60 cases.
Japan has confirmed four Australian citizens are among the 60 new cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The new cases also included 45 Japanese citizens, 11 Americans, one Canadian, a Ukraine citizen and three from the Philippines.
Airbnb blocks Beijing bookings as cruise ship cases climb
Airbnb has suspended Beijing bookings until 29 February as the coronavirus death toll mounted.
“In light of the novel coronavirus outbreak and guidance from local authorities for the short-term rental industry during this public health emergency, bookings of all listings in Beijing with check-in from 7 February 2020 to 29 February 2020 have been suspended,” the home-booking app said.
Read more: Coronavirus kills Wuhan whistleblower doctor
That came after Amazon became the latest big name vendor to drop out of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020, a global gathering of technology and smartphone companies.
And stocks sank again today in response to the higher coronavirus death toll. The Nikkei and Hong’s Hang Seng index both fell around 0.6 per cent while the FTSE 100 slipped 0.35 per cent.