| 5.6°C Belfast

Five Britons test positive for coronavirus in France

The French health ministry confirmed their condition is not serious.

Close

The affected Britons were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc (Victoria Jones/PA)

The affected Britons were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc (Victoria Jones/PA)

The affected Britons were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc (Victoria Jones/PA)

Five Britons have tested positive for coronavirus in France.

The four adults and a child were diagnosed after they came into contact with a British national who recently returned from Singapore, the French health ministry said.

The five British nationals, who are not in a serious condition, were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc.

French officials said the British national who was in Singapore returned on January 24 and stayed for four days in the area in eastern France, before returning to England on January 28.

The five Britons whose diagnosis was confirmed, as well as people they had close contact with – 11 people in total, all of British nationality – were taken to hospital on Friday night in Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble.

The health ministry confirmed their condition shows no signs of seriousness.

A crisis unit has been set up and people who have been in close and prolonged contact with these new cases will be informed during the day and given specific instructions.

Professor Rowland Kao, from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, said: “These cases originating from contacts in Singapore change the game as far as contact tracing is concerned.

“As we know there will be a substantial window of risk around when the cases occurred, as well as the additional risks associated with the British cases, as the French ski resort where they were staying is likely to result in a wide range of international contacts themselves.

“We are likely reaching the point where the tendrils of transmission risks reaching out from China are becoming a web, one that would require considerably greater resources to control.”

The confirmed cases in France came as a British honeymooner transferred from the cruise liner Diamond Princess to hospital in Japan with the coronavirus was said to be feeling well and in good spirits.

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was moved to hospital on Friday while his wife Wendy remained on board the ship.

The liner had been isolated in the port of Yokohama before going back out to sea, with 61 people having been taken to hospitals after testing positive for the virus.

Coronavirus
Staff in protective clothing on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama Bay (@daxa_tw handout/PA)

Wendy Marshall Steele has been in telephone contact with her husband. She said on Saturday that he was still feeling healthy.

“Alan is well, Japanese doctors are excellent,” she posted on Facebook.

“He is in a little room. Just Dr and nurse visit him.”

Mrs Marshall Steele said she was also well but had “cabin fever” as she continued to be confined to her room on the ship, a status shared with nearly 3,700 other passengers and crew.

“It was a hard first night without Alan. But hey, we are constantly in touch. Japanese doctors are excellent and he is in safe hands,” she wrote.

A total of 78 British passport holders – including crew – were among those who boarded the ship, sources told the PA news agency.

The ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, said the vessel’s quarantine was due to end on February 19, barring “unforeseen developments”, and confirmed all affected guests were being taken to hospitals.

Meanwhile, a British family of four is being tested in Majorca after coming into contact with a coronavirus sufferer in France, the government in the Balearic Islands said.

And a student at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in Brighton is self-isolating for 14 days, following advice from Public Health England.

The school said it had been advised by health authorities that schools do not need to close.

Some 150 Britons being flown back from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan on Sunday will be quarantined at a facility in Milton Keynes.

South Central Ambulance Service said Kents Hill Park, a conference centre and hotel, would be used to house the returning citizens after they landed at RAF Brize Norton.

The group will remain at the site in isolation for 14 days, it added.

Everyone boarding the plane in the Chinese city, which is the epicentre of the outbreak, will be assessed and will continue to be monitored after landing in the UK on Sunday morning.

The ambulance service said the presence of the group in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, does not present a risk to local people.

An ambulance arrives at Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, in Milton Keynes, ahead of the repatriation to the UK of the latest coronavirus evacuees
An ambulance arrives at Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, in Milton Keynes, ahead of the repatriation to the UK of the latest coronavirus evacuees (Joe Giddens/PA)

The first group of Britons who returned on a flight last month are continuing their period of quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

The death toll in the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 722 on Saturday, while new cases jumped to 34,546.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that 620 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus as of 2pm on Friday, with three cases confirmed.

It is understood that the third person in the UK to be diagnosed with coronavirus caught the illness in Singapore.

He is reported to be a middle-aged British man and is understood to be the first UK national to contract the disease.

The man is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and was transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where there is an infectious diseases unit, on Thursday afternoon.

Two other patients, who had recently travelled from China, are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle.

One is a student at the University of York, while the other is a family member.

PA