Coronavirus: Brighton GP practice closes after staff member tests positive

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County Oak Medical Centre Image copyright Google

A GP practice in Brighton has been temporarily closed after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.

Patients at the city’s County Oak medical centre have been advised to contact the NHS 111 phone service if they have concerns.

Eight people in the UK have now been infected by the coronavirus.

The Department of Health has called the virus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health, but the overall risk to the population is “moderate”.

However, the risk to individuals is low, the department said.

There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China. The total number of deaths in China is now 908.

One of the eight people inflected in the UK is a British man who caught the virus at a conference in Singapore and travelled to a ski resort in France.

He was diagnosed in Brighton, and is being treated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

He has been linked to five of the other cases – four of which were announced on Monday.

In addition to the eight cases in the UK, five British nationals tested positive in France following the Brighton man’s trip to the ski resort.

A British man has also been diagnosed with coronavirus in Majorca after contact with a carrier in France.

Elsewehere, the Department of Health has introduced new measures in England that mean those in quarantine will not be free to leave, and can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat.

The move comes after a passenger on the first UK flight from Wuhan, who is being held in quarantine on the Wirral, had been “threatening to abscond”, according to the BBC’s political correspondent Iain Watson.

Where had the Brighton coronavirus patient been?

The British man visited Singapore on business from 20 to 23 January, before staying at a chalet in the Alpine resort area of Les Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc.

He flew back to the UK from Geneva on 28 January, easyJet confirmed.

Four adults and a nine-year-old child were subsequently diagnosed with the virus after coming into contact with him. They are not in a serious condition.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The group were staying at this chalet in the French Alpine ski resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie

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EasyJet said in a statement on Monday that health officials are trying to trace other passengers on flight EZS8481 to London Gatwick who might be at risk.

On his return to the UK, the Brighton man visited The Grenadier pub in Hove.

Is the Brighton man a ‘super-spreader’?

This looks a lot like a “super-spreading” event. It is likely another British national diagnosed in Majorca is also connected to the Brighton man.

This is not unusual in outbreaks.

We know that people pass this novel coronavirus on to an average of two-to-three people, but some will pass it on to nobody and others will pass it on to far more.

In Mers-coronavirus, a super-spreading event led to 82 people being infected.

History has demonised the super-spreader. Irish cook Mary Mallon (1869-1938) is remembered as “Typhoid Mary” after unknowingly passing on the disease when she had no symptoms. She spent decades in exile and forced quarantine.

But in reality it’s not the patient’s fault.

Having no symptoms, making unusually large amounts of virus or mixing with lots of people can all lead to super-spreading.

What are the latest regulations in the UK?

Arrowe Park Hospital, on the Wirral, and Kents Hill Park conference centre, in Milton Keynes, have been designated as “isolation” facilities in the UK.

Evacuees from Wuhan who travelled to the UK on two flights chartered by the Foreign Office are currently in quarantine at the locations.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Passengers on Sunday’s flight from Wuhan were taken to Kents Hill Park conference centre, in Milton Keynes

Iain Watson said the Department of Health’s new quarantine measures were announced because one person has been “threatening to abscond” despite signing a contract agreeing to the isolation period.

He said the regulations were brought in “to try and compel him to stay put”.

Man with a face mask checks phone while eating

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Spread of coronavirus

  • 40,000+cases of the virus globally

  • 908deaths in China, as of Sunday 9 February

  • 27 other countries, at least, it has spread to

  • 1%of people infected go on to die, it’s estimated

Sources: China National Health Commission, WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling

A statement on the Department of Health website said “incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health”.

On Twitter, the department added that the announcement on the coronavirus threat was “a legal term… as part of changes to make it easier for health professionals to do their job”.

A government spokesman said: “We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public.”

Why have they issued this advice?

Tackling the coronavirus threat has taken the government into uncharted territory. Quarantining hundreds of British citizens for two weeks has never been done on this scale in modern times.

Whitehall sources say the latest Department of Health announcement on the virus threat covers the tightening of some regulations to help enforce quarantine powers.

This gives legal underpinning to the quarantining of people back from Wuhan in Milton Keynes and the Wirral.

They all signed contracts committing to the 14-day isolation but it’s understood that more rigorous regulations are needed to ensure people stay the course.

This is not a ramping up in official warnings to the wider public. The language used in the official release describing an “imminent threat” was over dramatic and confusing and probably there only for obscure legal reasons.

The actual threat level announced by Public Health England a couple of weeks ago remains moderate.

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