Statements – January 2020

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Statement from the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, on Wuhan novel coronavirus.
Published 24 January 2020

COBR met today to discuss the situation in Wuhan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. I updated on the current situation, the preparedness of the NHS, and possible next steps.

I am working closely with the other UK Chief Medical Officers. We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage. We have tried and tested measures in place to respond. The UK is well prepared for these types of incidents, with excellent readiness against infectious diseases.

We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track record of managing new forms of infectious disease. We have access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world from around the UK.

There are no confirmed cases in the UK to date. We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of the outbreak and are now implementing our planned response.

A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today. This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures.

The World Health Organization has rightly responded quickly and China has introduced strong public health measures.


The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock updated Parliament on Wuhan novel coronavirus.

Published 27 January 2020, Department of Health and Social Care and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

Mr Speaker, with your permission, before turning to the Bill I would like to update the House on the ongoing situation with the Wuhan coronavirus.

The Chief Medical Officer continues to advise that the risk to the UK population is “low” and has concluded that while there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them.

As of 2pm, there are currently no confirmed cases in the UK. We are working night and day with the World Health Organization and the international community and are monitoring the situation closely. Our approach has been guided by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

As I set out in my statement on Thursday, coronavirus presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild.

However, this is a new disease and the global scientific community is still learning about it. I have therefore directed Public Health England to take a belt and braces approach, including tracing people who have been to Wuhan in the past 14 days.

Coronaviruses do not usually spread if people don’t have symptoms – however we cannot be 100 per cent certain.

From today, we are therefore asking anyone in the UK who has returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days to self-isolate. Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people – and to contact NHS 111. If you are in Northern Ireland, you should phone your GP.

If you develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of travel from the area, and are now in the UK, call your GP or ring 111 informing them of your symptoms and your recent travel to the city.

Do not leave home until you have been given advice by a clinician.

Public Health England officials are continuing to trace people who have arrived in the UK from Wuhan. Having eliminated those who we know have since left the country, there are 1,460 people we are seeking to locate.

The Foreign Office is rapidly advancing measures to bring UK nationals back from Hubei Province.

I have asked my officials to ensure there are appropriate measures in place upon arrival to look after them and protect the public.

If you are in Hubei Province and wish to leave, please get in contact with the Foreign Office.

The UK is one of the first countries in the world to have developed an accurate test for this coronavirus and PHE is undertaking continuous refinement of this test. PHE has this morning confirmed to me that it can scale up this test so we are in a position to deal with cases in this country if necessary.

Mr Speaker, I want to stress that the NHS remains well prepared. The NHS has expert teams in every ambulance service and a number of specialist hospital units with highly trained staff and equipment ready to receive and care for patients with any highly infectious, disease including this one.

The NHS practices and prepares its response to disease outbreaks and follows tried and tested procedures, following the highest safety standards possible for the protection of NHS staff, patients and the public. Specific guidance on handling the Wuhan coronavirus has been shared with NHS staff.

Madame Speaker this is a timely reminder to have a first-class health care system and this bring me to this Bill.


Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to mainland China

We have updated our travel advice to mainland China to advise against all but essential travel following the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan.

Published 28 January 2020

In light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises against ‘all but essential’ travel to mainland China.

British people currently in China should make decisions based on their own personal circumstances, bearing in mind that travel may become more difficult in the coming days.

Commercial options for departing China remain available except in Hubei Province. The Foreign Office is working to finalise arrangements for evacuating British nationals from Hubei.


Statement from the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers on novel coronavirus
Update on the UK risk level regarding novel coronavirus.

Published 30 January 2020

We have been working in close collaboration with international colleagues and the World Health Organization to monitor the situation in China and around the world.

In light of the increasing number of cases in China and using existing and widely tested models, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers consider it prudent for our governments to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.

For that reason, we are advising an increase of the UK risk level from low to moderate. This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities.

As we have previously said, it is likely there will be individual cases and we are confident in the ability of the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales and HSC in Northern Ireland to manage these in a way that protects the public and provides high quality care.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood

Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride


CMO confirms cases of coronavirus in England
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, statement about cases of novel coronavirus in England.

Published 31 January 2020

We can confirm that 2 patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus. The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately. We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.