Coronovirus: Pandemic fears grow as screening put in place at LHR

Enhanced monitoring will be put in place for all direct flights from Wuhan, the area of China at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, landing in the UK according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

This action follows the World Health Organisation set to declare the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern following a slew of new cases. The outbreak has sparked fears of a pandemic similar to that of MERS and SARS, amid new fears the coronavirus may be mutating.

The likelihood that the virus will spread to different continents is high, and countries like Japan, Hong Kong, the United States and more recently Britain, have announced measures to monitor flights arriving in from the affected area.

There are three direct flights a week that arrive at Heathrow Airport from Wuhan, and passengers will be separated from other arrivals at the airport. They will be observed by air crew for signs of illness, be offered medical advice leaflets and will have their temperature checked by health workers if necessary.

Public Health England has upgraded the risk from very low to low, and transport secretary Grant Shapps said additional measures such as health checks would be placed on flights from Wuhan after more than 440 cases and nine deaths were reported abroad, to try and combat any escalation.

The virus originated in the central city of Wuhan in Hubei province late last year and has since spread to Beijing, and to Shanghai. Cases have also been found in the US, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. All of these involved people who had recently been in Wuhan.

As airports in several countries increase biosecurity screenings of passengers from China, the Chinese authorities have urged people to stop travelling in and out of Wuhan.

While there are currently no confirmed cases of this new infection in the UK, experts say it is “likely” that the virus will spread to Britain and Europe in the coming weeks.

The UK is updating its travel advice today to advise only essential travel to Wuhan.

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