KILLER VIRUS: BATTLE TO KEEP US SAFE

First British victim dies after cruise Fears GP has caught disease 20 UK victims confirmed £210bn wiped off FTSE in five days PM says crisis is ‘top priority and great concern’

THE battle to keep the country safe from coronavirus was being ramped up last night after the first Briton died.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the killer virus was the Government’s “top priority” and called on the public to play their part by washing hands to stop it from spreading. Japanese health officials confirmed a British man in his 70s had died after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. He was taken to hospital and died in isolation later.

And a resident from Surrey became the UK’s 20th confirmed case – and the first to have been infected on home soil.

Mr Johnson, who visited at Kettering General Hospital to look at virus preparations, said: “Our thoughts are very much with the family of the victim in Yokohama, the UK national, and the Foreign Office is doing all they can to support.

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“But on the wider issue of coronavirus, which obviously is of great concern to people, I just want to reassure everybody and say that the NHS is making every possible preparation.

“I saw myself some of the work that is being done across the NHS to get ready for that just last night.

“As you can imagine, the issue of coronavirus is something that is now the Government’s top priority.”

The Prime Minister is set to chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra committee on the outbreak on Monday.

He said he had been working behind the scenes, meeting with the Health Secretary and chief medical officers to discuss the NHS’s preparations.

Mr Johnson added: “I just repeat the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, which I think is the best thing to get across – the most valuable thing we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to wash our hands for 20 seconds or more with hot water and soap. That is the best single piece of advice we can give.”

The first confirmed case in Wales and three more in England yesterday brought the number of UK patients to 20, with only Scotland so far uninfected.

Public Health England said the latest coronavirus case was a resident in Surrey.

A GP in the county who may have treated the resident was last night being tested for the virus. He could be the 21st case if conformed tomorrow

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “One further patient in England has tested positive for Covid-19.

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“The virus was passed on in the UK. It is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad. This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun. The patient has been transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

“The total number of cases in England is now

18. Following confirmed cases in Northern Ireland and Wales, the total number of UK cases is 20.”

Officials are understood to be scrambling to work out how the patient – the seventh UK case diagnosed in the past 36 hours – managed to catch the condition and fall ill despite not being in a virus hotspot. They have not yet established how he might have caught the virus but he has not recently visited any of the places abroad where there have been recent outbreaks, such as northern Italy, Tenerife, Iran and China. The patient is the first Briton to have caught the infection in the UK – all other patients have caught the virus abroad.

The two other patients in England caught the virus in Iran and have been transferred to specialist NHS centres at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

The patient in Wales had recently returned from a skiing holiday in northern Italy and is understood to be a father from the Swansea area.

The cruise ship passenger – who has not been named, was one of four British nationals who had to remain in Japan while 32 others were brought home after being held for a fortnight on the virus-stricken vessel.

Infection spread like wildfire on the luxury liner moored in Yokohama Port, near Tokyo.

More than 700 passengers and crew caught the virus and six have been killed, including a Japanese woman in her 70s who died yesterday.

Asked about suggestions that the victim who died of the disease should have been airlifted back to the UK sooner, the Prime Minister added: “We were following the best medical advice.We very much regret the loss of life of the individual concerned but we think the best thing to do is not to move people around too much in the current situation, not to repatriate unless you can be absolutely sure that there isn’t going to be a spread and a contagion to this country.

“That’s the principle that we’re adopting.”

The coronavirus crisis has sparked panic in global stock markets with £3trillion being wiped off shares.

London’s FTSE 100 plunged by more than three per cent yesterday and has had £210billion wiped off its value this week.

The World Health Organisation yesterday upgraded its risk assessment to “very high at a global level” and said it is looking into reports of people being re-infected.

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FAMILIES nationwide will feel deep sadness for all who knew and loved the first UK victim of coronavirus. The as yet unnamed man is the sixth person to die who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

More than 700 people who were on board the liner, which was quarantined in Japan, have been infected.

Around the world, approximately 2,800 people have perished from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

It is essential that the panic we see on the world’s financial markets does not grip the population.

Boris Johnson is right to make dealing with coronavirus his top priority but the impact it has on this country will be largely determined by ordinary people.

If we follow the clear instructions about what to do if we think we may be infected and, crucially, wash our hands, then there is a good chance that a health disaster can be avoided.

There is every reason to take this threat to life seriously but we should not exaggerate the risk. Above all, we must take responsibility for our own actions.

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