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Boris Johnson calls emergency Cobra meeting over coronavirus threat

Boris Johnson calls emergency Cobra meeting over coronavirus threat
2 min read

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to chair a meeting of the Government's Cobra committee to discuss the growing threat from the deadly coronavirus.

Members of the emergency committee will gather in Downing Street after health officials confirmed on Thursday that 14 patients in the UK were being tested for the virus.

On Friday, the Prime Minister's official spokesperson said there "remains no confirmed cases" in Britain after five of those tested were given the all clear.

He also insisted that the country was "well prepared for any new diseases".

Mr Johnson is not expected to attend the Downing Street meeting, but ministers from the Foreign Office and Home Office, as well as those from the transport, communities and education departments, will be present.

The meeting will update ministers on the situation and outline the Government's preparations for any future cases.

In Scotland, an incident team has already been established after five people were sent for testing after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education has begun discussions with universities regarding students returning to the UK after celebrating Chinese New Year back home.

The spokesperson added: "All UK airports have medical experts on hand and information is being provided to all passengers returning from China."

So far there have been 26 fatalities from the virus in China, but a further 870 patients have been confirmed to have the illness, with cases reported in the US, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singpore.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty is expected to deliver an update on the UK situation following the Cobra meeting, but health experts have already warned cases were "highly likely" to be indentified.

Professor Paul Cosford, medical direct at Public Health England, said it was "early days" for the virus with a majority of people recovering from the condition.

"I think it's highly likely that we will have cases in the UK  and of course every so often we do get new infections coming from the animal kingdom such as this one," he told the BBC.

"The people who have done particularly badly, and sadly died, they seem to be people who have other conditions that might make them more likely to suffer badly with this virus."

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