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University of York insists coronavirus risk ‘low’ after student tests positive

The student and a relative remain the only two confirmed cases in Britain.

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A woman wears a mask outside Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary amid the coronavirus outbreak across the world (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A woman wears a mask outside Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary amid the coronavirus outbreak across the world (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A woman wears a mask outside Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary amid the coronavirus outbreak across the world (Owen Humphreys/PA)

University officials have moved to reassure the community in York after it emerged one of the first two people to test positive for coronavirus is a student in the city.

The unnamed student has not been on campus since being infected and was not there in the period beforehand either, a spokesman for the University of York confirmed on Saturday evening.

He stressed the risk to staff and students is therefore low.

The pair – who are related – remain the only two confirmed cases in Britain of coronavirus, which has killed more than 250 people in China.

Meanwhile, more details have emerged from within a quarantine facility in Merseyside where dozens of Britons extracted on a rescue flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan will be holed up for the next fortnight.

Some evacuees, who have access to the internet, have shared footage from inside their accommodation at the locked NHS staff accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, where 83 British nationals are being housed.

Writing on Facebook, Natalie Francis, who is with her young son Jamie, said they have access to a “fenced in” small courtyard to get fresh air, but they are not “free to just wander around as we please”.

She added: “Even in the common room downstairs where we go and get our supplies, we still wear our masks and use protective measures.”

She said the group cannot receive any parcels, so they are reliant on hospital staff providing everyday items such as “food, clothes, toiletries, toys and medicines”.

In a video blog from inside his room, Matt Raw told the Guardian they have been provided with all the essentials and he described the accommodation as “perfectly nice”.

Elsewhere, the Foreign Office (FCO) is continuing to work with EU countries to add remaining Britons to any further rescue flights they may charter back from Wuhan.

One British man in the city said he had been offered a space on a French evacuation flight but told of his fears of being left stranded in the city after deciding he could not leave his wife behind when she could not get the time off work.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “The Government is in touch with British nationals who remain in Wuhan and are doing everything we can to bring them home as safely and quickly as possible.”

Earlier on Saturday, the FCO announced it is withdrawing some staff from China and the British Consulate-General in Wuhan was closed after Friday’s evacuation flight.

It said essential staff will remain to continue “critical work”, but it warned its ability to provide help to Britons in the country may be “limited”.

In another blow to mainland China, where officials said the number of known cases of the virus has risen from 9,962 to 11,791, technology giant Apple announced it is temporarily closing its 42 shops there until February 9.

Qatar Airways also announced the suspension of flights to mainland China from February 3, following in the footsteps of other major operators including British Airways.

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The University of York has advised people concerned about their health in relation to coronavirus to call 111 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

The University of York has advised people concerned about their health in relation to coronavirus to call 111 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

The University of York has advised people concerned about their health in relation to coronavirus to call 111 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Shortly after confirming a student is one of the two confirmed UK cases, University of York vice-chancellor Professor Charlie Jeffery acknowledged the “concern and anxiety” among students and staff.

But he added: “I want to reassure our students, staff and the wider community that we are working closely with the lead agency, Public Health England, and other agencies to manage this situation.”

Public Health England (PHE) is continuing to try and trace people who had close contact – defined as being within two metres for 15 minutes – with the pair, who had checked in to the Staycity apartment-hotel in York and are now being treated at a specialist unit in Newcastle.

One expert has called on PHE to share more information sooner in order to reassure people.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, described the decision not to initially confirm the pair had been in York when they were taken to hospital as “unfortunate”.

He said: “They should have given some more clear information about where it was, what dates they thought that contact might have happened, and given some more information about how they were going to identify contacts.”

The university has advised people concerned about their health in relation to the virus to call 111, and it has also set up a call centre over the weekend.

The University of Derby, meanwhile, has confirmed “a very small number” of students who came back from Wuhan before travel restrictions were put in place are self-isolating for 14 days, but they are all fit and well.

A total of 201 tests for coronavirus in the UK have been confirmed negative, the Department of Health said in the latest figures released on Saturday afternoon.

No deaths have occurred outside China, although cases have been confirmed across at least 23 countries.

PA