After much prevarication and speculation, the authorities have confirmed York is the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Having spent much of the last 24 hours saying they couldn’t give any details due to patient confidentality, Public Health England has said the two infected people in the UK were taken ill in the city.
In a statement they said:
Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.
The two cases were staying in York when they became unwell. 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.
This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.
The two patients are currently being treated by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in its specialist Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centre (HCID).
It is understood that they travelled to the UK from China in recent days, stayed at Staycity in Paragon Street, York, and are now undergoing treatment at the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Searching for those affected
Health officials are urgently trying to trace those who came into contact with the two people diagnosed with coronavirus.
Prof Peacock said that while staff are working to trace people who have been in contact with the pair, they do not currently have “any idea” of how high that number might be.
The PHE definition of close contact is being within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes.
Anyone who has been in contact with the two patients in England should self-isolate for 14 days, and if they develop any symptoms they are advised to call 111 or their GP.
In a statement, chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections, and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.
“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.”
York ‘ready to respond’
Leader of City of York Council Cllr Keith Aspden said:
First and foremost, I would like to update residents and visitors that the council has received guidance from specialist services and we are working with our partners to ensure that York remains a safe place for everyone to live, work and visit.
The Council has been in close contact with Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care and local NHS partners.
We are confident that all the relevant services in the city are well-equipped and ready to respond if appropriate.
He said the latest information and advice is available on the Public Health England blog.
York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “I have just had a teleconference with Public Health England, the council and York Outer MP concerning the incident of Novel Coronavirus, and can confirm that action is being taken to contact people who have had contact with the patients. I will be having further updates.”