People wearing masks walk through an underground passage to the subway in Beijing, China January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Public Health England (PHE) today said the UK is carefully monitoring the situation in coronavirus-affected Chinese city Wuhan and the NHS is well prepared to manage and treat new diseases.

From today, enhanced monitoring will be in place for all three direct flights from Wuhan to London’s Heathrow Airport. The monitoring package includes a Port Health team who will provide advice and support to travellers if they feel unwell.

The team will check for symptoms of coronavirus and provide information to all passengers about symptoms, and what to do if they become ill. Mandarin and Cantonese language support will also be available.

Officials said it would expand the enhanced monitoring to flights from other Chinese cities if necessary.

Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said: “This is a new and rapidly evolving situation where information on cases and the virus is being gathered and assessed daily. Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is considered low. We are working with the WHO and other international partners, have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.

“If you are travelling to Wuhan, you should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms. Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK. They should phone ahead before attending any health services and mention their recent travel to the city.”

DHSC confirmed that there are currently no confirmed cases of this new infection in the UK.

Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport with over 200,000 passengers passing through each day and many connections to China, including 17 flights from mainland China and Hong Kong arriving on Wednesday.

The government said it would use an isolated area at Heathrow Terminal 4 to receive aircraft from Wuhan. The next is due at 1830 GMT on Wednesday and another on Friday.

China has already confirmed 17 deaths and over 500 cases related to coronavirus while Thailand reported four cases so far. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the United States also reported one case each.

(With Reuters Inputs)

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