The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) issues coronavirus warning - and says it is 'monitoring the situation' in China because it has staff and students there

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) said it is "monitoring" the coronavirus situation in China, and has issued a warning to its students.

By Michael Holmes
Monday, 27th January 2020, 10:05 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 1:27 pm

The university, which has a large cohort of Chinese students, said anyone developing symptoms of the deadly flu-like outbreak within two weeks of visiting its epicentre Wuhan should "seek medical attention" and tell medics about their recent travel.

In a statement, UCLan said it was "monitoring the current situation regarding the Wuhan novel coronavirus as it has students and staff currently in China".

It added: "We are in close contact with Public Health England (PHE), which assesses the current risk to the UK as low, but we are highlighting the current PHE precautionary measures to the university community."

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A Chinese passenger that just arrived on the last bullet train from Wuhan to Beijing is checked for a fever by a health worker at a Beijing railway station on January 23, 2020 in Beijing, China (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

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One worker said the same advice had been posted online, but insisted it was otherwise business as usual at the university, which has a number of partnerships in China, including in Beijing, Chongquing, Guangdong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Nanyang.

This morning, the number of confirmed cases climbed to 2,744, including 80 deaths, which have all occurred in China, where several large cities have been on lockdown as the government seeks to contain the illness.

More than 50 people had now been tested for the virus in the UK by yesterday, according to the Department of Health (DoH) yesterday, although all tests were returned negative.

The current risk to the public here remains low, the department said, adding that the Government is watching the situation carefully.

England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Witty said there was a "fair chance" cases would emerge in Britain, with the Foreign Office updating its guidance to "advise against all travel to the Hubei province".

The guidance also added: "If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so."

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said the Government was "looking at all options" to help Britons leave Wuhan, which is in the Hubei province, following reports officials have been asked to examine the logistics for an airlift from the city.

One academic said his "best guess" was that 100,000 have been infected with the flu-like virus. Diagnoses have been confirmed in a number of countries, including one in Canada, five in the States, three in France, and five in Australia.

Prof Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London said: "There are very large numbers of Chinese tourists across Europe right now.

"Unless the Chinese manage to control this, and I'm sceptical about whether that is possible, we will get cases here."

It comes as spectators celebrated Chinese New Year in central London, which marks the start of the Year of the Rat.

Authorities in China have cancelled a host of events marking New Year as they expand their measures against the virus.

Meanwhile, health officials are continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan.

The DoH confirmed it is trying to find "as many passengers as we can" who arrived from the region in the past two weeks to check on their wellbeing.

It is understood Border Force officers have been recruited to help speed up the search for passengers as testing for the virus continues in the UK.

A public health hub has been set up in Heathrow, staffed by a rotating team of seven clinicians working in shifts to support patients on arrival.

Prof Whitty said following a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee in Whitehall on Friday that the virus looked "a lot less dangerous" than contracting Ebola, the recent coronavirus, Mers and "probably less dangerous" than Sars virus.

But he added: "What we don't know is how far it's going to spread, that really is something we need to plan for all eventualities."

"We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage."

"We think there's a fair chance we may get some cases over time.

"Of course this depends on whether this continues for a long time, or whether this turns out to be something which is brought under control relatively quickly."

A spokesman for Blackpool Victoria Hospital declined to comment when asked what measures would be taken in the event of a suspected case there.