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UK government issues coronavirus measures

By JULIAN SHEA | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-23 09:41

[Photo by Jin Ding/China Daily]

Risk of contracting illness 'remains low' but steps taken as a precaution

The British government has announced it is introducing special measures for flights arriving from Wuhan in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that has broken out in the region.

Authorities in China have advised against travel in and out of the city, but with Chinese New Year leading to a huge increase in travel, both domestically and internationally, there is an increased likelihood of the virus, which has so far been found in 440 people and claimed 17 lives, being spread beyond the initial hot spot.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Public Health England had raised the risk status from very low to low, but as a precaution aircraft from Wuhan arriving at London's Heathrow Airport would land in an isolated part of Terminal 4, and passengers would be met by a health team who could check for symptoms and offer advice.

"The flights that come in from the affected region will now be given extra attention," he added.

A Heathrow spokesman said the airport would "support the implementation of the measures," adding: "we would like to reassure passengers that the government assesses the risk of a traveler contracting coronavirus to be low."

So far there have been only a handful of confirmed cases outside China, including some in Japan and the United States, but none in the United Kingdom.

One of the most common international destinations for travelers from Wuhan is Thailand, where a British traveler with a lung infection is suspected of having picked up the bug.

Josie Golding from health education charity the Wellcome Trust said the outbreak reminded people of the 2002 outbreak in China of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, which affected more than 8,000 people, killing 774 of them.

"There is a strong memory of Sars, that's where a lot of fear comes from, but we're a lot more prepared to deal with those types of diseases," she told the BBC.

As a safety precaution, cabin staff on Cathay Pacific flights have been given permission to wear surgical masks when on duty, having initially been refused when they requested to do so.

Worries over the impact of the virus has also had a financial impact on share prices in Europe, particularly in companies linked to China.

On the pan-European STOXX 600 exchange, shares in long-haul flight operators Air France, Lufthansa and IAG, the owner of British Airways, all suffered because of concern at how the virus might affect people's travel plans for Chinese New Year.

Similarly, luxury brands popular in China such as Burberry and LVMH also too a knock.

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