Coronavirus update: Is the UK ready for a pandemic? Matt Hancock issues latest advice

Coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to 13 after four cruise ship passengers flown back to Britain on Saturday tested positive for the virus. The majority of cases have been reported in mainland China, with 64,786 cases confirmed in Hubei where the virus (COVID-19) originated. In the last few days, the rising number of cases in South Korea and Italy has sparked concern, with 833 cases confirmed in South Korea and 229 confirmed in Italy.


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So can we expect a pandemic in the coming weeks, and what is the UK doing to prepare?

Matt Hancock took to ITV’s This Morning to reveal the government has been doing all the planning that’s necessary for a coronavirus pandemic.

The health secretary said it’s not yet clear whether coronavirus is going to be a virus that spreads globally, but that there are plans in place to make sure the NHS is prepared.

He explained: “At the moment we’re putting at the front of every A&E a unit so people can go and be tested without actually going into A&E and rising spreading the virus further. That’s one example.

“We’re making sure that there’s beds available, in case this gets much bigger. Especially for people with respiratory conditions.

“One of the good things about this virus is around four fifths of people that get it just get a relatively mild version – it’s like having a bad cold.

“So those preparations are in case it comes here in a big way.

“But the effort at the moment is also stopping that from happening.”

Matt continued to explain that this means whenever they find a positive test, they then get in contact with all the people that person has been near.

He added: “The critical thing here is everybody can play their part. Every single person, every body watching today.

“We can do that by if you’ve been travelling to one of the effected areas, following the advice.

“So for instance, if you’ve been to north Italy, if you have symptoms, then self-isolate at home.”


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The UK Chief Medical Officers raised the risk to the public from low to moderate a couple of weeks ago, but the risk to individuals remains low.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus to look out for, are:

  • A cough
  • A high temperature
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have the illness, as the symptoms are similar to other illness that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

But the NHS says you should call 111 now if you’ve been:

  • To Wuhan or Hubei Province in China in the last 14 days (even if you do not have symptoms)
  • To other parts of mainland China in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild)
  • To Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild)
  • In close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus

You shouldn’t go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people.

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