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Coronavirus: Four more patients test positive after links with businessman

The British businessman, who caught coronavirus in Singapore, is being treated at the specialist infectious diseases unit at St Thomas’ in London.

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Coaches carrying coronavirus evacuees arrive at Kents Hill Park (Aaron Chown/PA)

Coaches carrying coronavirus evacuees arrive at Kents Hill Park (Aaron Chown/PA)

Coaches carrying coronavirus evacuees arrive at Kents Hill Park (Aaron Chown/PA)

Four more patients in England have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight.

The four people infected are all understood to be contacts of a businessman who was diagnosed in Brighton last week and who contracted the virus at a conference in Singapore.

It comes as a doctor’s surgery in Brighton closed after a staff member became infected, and as the Government introduced new powers to forcibly quarantine anyone with the virus.

The businessman infected in Singapore stopped at a chalet in a ski region of France – where five other Britons were subsequently taken ill with the virus – before heading back to the UK.

The Department of Health confirmed the four people newly-diagnosed contracted the virus in France and are being treated at specialist infection centres at St Thomas’ and the Royal Free hospitals in London.

The Guardian reported that the four people are three men and one woman.

One of the men is understood to be a doctor who was part of a group that were skiing in the resort near Chamonix with the businessman, who is being treated at the specialist infectious diseases unit at St Thomas’.

The five British nationals being treated in France were diagnosed after they came into contact with the businessman, according to the French health ministry.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The four adults and a nine-year-old child, who are not in a serious condition, were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc.

EasyJet confirmed that the businessman flew from Geneva back to the UK on January 28 on flight EZS8481, and Public Health England is trying to trace other passengers who might be at risk.

The businessman is also linked to a British man in Majorca who tested positive for coronavirus, while his wife and two daughters tested negative.

A fourth UK case, diagnosed on Sunday, who is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London, is also “a known contact of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France”, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty said on Sunday.

Once back in the UK, the Brighton businessman visited The Grenadier pub in Hove, which said it has been told by Public Health England there is “minimal ongoing risk of infection to either guests or staff”.

The County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton said on Monday it had closed “because of an urgent operational health and safety reason”, after a member of staff there became one of those infected.

People wearing protective full body suits and gloves were seen cleaning the centre in footage shared online, while sources told the PA news agency the member of staff only came into contact with a handful of patients in the past few weeks.

The developments come as the Government declared coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat to public health”.

Announcing new legal powers on Monday, the Department of Health said people with coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave, and can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat.

Coronavirus
A passenger gives a peace sign as coaches carrying coronavirus evacuees arrive at Kents Hill Park (Aaron Chown/PA)

The PA news agency understands that the decision was in response to one of the Britons who returned from Wuhan in China – the source of the coronavirus outbreak – attempting to leave isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital on Merseyside.

A Government source said “there was someone who was threatening to abscond from Arrowe Park”, despite all the Britons who returned on the evacuation flight signing a contract agreeing to a 14-day quarantine period, which ends this Thursday.

However, there have been concerns about whether those contracts are legally enforceable.

On Twitter, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Clinical advice has not changed about the risk to the public, which remains moderate.

“The transmission of coronavirus would constitute a serious threat – so I am taking action to protect the public and isolate those at risk of spreading the virus.”

Arrowe Park Hospital and Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes, both of which are housing Britons who have returned from Wuhan, are now designated “isolation facilities”, according to the Government.

Meanwhile, another plane carrying people evacuated from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday morning, with people then taken to Kents Hill Park for 14 days of quarantine.

Elsewhere, there are now 130 confirmed cases of coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, Japan’s health minister said.

British honeymooner Alan Steele, who was transferred from the cruise liner to hospital in Japan with coronavirus, was said to be feeling well and in good spirits over the weekend.

In the UK, a University of York student and their relative are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle.

There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China, while the death toll in China now stands at 908.

Of the latest four cases diagnosed in England on Monday, Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: “These new cases are all closely linked and were rapidly identified through Public Health England’s comprehensive contact tracing approach and tested quickly.”

PA