Two GPs are thought to have contracted the Wuhan coronavirus while a practice in Brighton has been closed after exposure to a businessman returning from Singapore.
The practice was identified as the County Oak Medical Centre, a large practice with 17,000 patients – and yesterday public health officials, armed with new emergency powers, were tracing patients and other contacts.
According to The Times, the doctors were on a skiing holiday with the businessman in the Alps. One of the doctors was named as Dr Catriona Greenwood.
The two doctors were among four patients in the UK confirmed as infected with coronavirus yesterday. A statement from the practice, issued to patients, said the surgery, at Warmdene, had been “closed for cleaning as a precautionary measure.”
Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: “As a result of our contact tracing we now know the new cases announced today are all closely linked to one another. Our priority has been to speak to those who have close and sustained contact with confirmed cases, so we can advise them on what they can do to limit the spread of the virus.
“Two of these new cases are healthcare workers and as soon as they were identified, we advised them to self-isolate in order to keep patient contact to a minimum. We are now working urgently to identify all patients and other healthcare workers who may have come into close contact, and at this stage we believe this to be a relatively small number.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock began the day by invoking emergency public health powers, partly designed to prevent patients leaving isolation facilities established in the Wirral and Milton Keynes.
A government order stated: “Incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health, and the measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus. In accordance with Regulation 2, the Secretary of State designates Arrowe Park Hospital and Kents Hill Park as an ‘isolation’ facility and Wuhan and Hubei province as an ‘infected area’.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said that cases such as those in the UK and France “could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire. But for now, it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”