[UPDATED] Coronavirus: PHE confirms ‘low risk to UK’; China deaths on the rise

By Luke Barras-hill |

PHE-sign-mainWhile cases of the new Coronavirus strain could surface in the UK the current risk to the public ‘remains low’, Public Health England (PHE) has stated.

Tests on more than 50 people in the the country have so far returned negative results with no official confirmed cases in the UK as yet, despite the death toll climbing in China.

It is being widely reported that the Novel Coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCoV, has killed more than 50 people in the country and infected more than 2,000.

As reported, Wuhan’s transport network has gone into lockdown and further travel restrictions have been implemented in Hubei Province as China goes to extreme lengths to contain the virus.


China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has reported that China has extended the Spring Festival holiday to 2 February (due to end on 30 January) and postponed school openings today (27 January). Premier Xi Jinping chaired a meeting on Saturday (25 January) that addressed measures to control the outbreak.

According to Xinhua, China’s Ministry of Culture & Tourism has released a circular instructing travel agencies and online travel service firms to cancel group tours and packages, including flights and hotel bookings.

While the World Health Organization is yet to declare the situation a global health emergency, the outbreak is already having serious implications for travel, tourism and retail, particularly ahead of the peak Chinese New Year period (25 Jan-8 Feb).


Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Office for England. Source: Department of Health and Social Care.

The UK Government called an emergency Cabinet Officer Briefing Rooms (COBR) meeting today to update on the situation in Wuhan, China and elsewhere in Asia, the preparedness of the NHS, and the next steps.

In a statement obtained by TRBusiness, Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said: “I am working closely with the other UK Chief Medical Officers.

“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 have tried and tested measures in place to respond. The UK is well prepared for these types of incidents, with excellent readiness against infectious diseases.

“We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track record of managing new forms of infectious disease. The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.

“We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of the outbreak and are now implementing our planned response. The World Health Organization has rightly responded quickly and China has introduced strong public health measures.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said earlier today that the UK is being ‘vigilant’ and taking ‘all necessary precautions to protect the public’.


PHE announced that an ‘enhanced monitoring package’, effective yesterday, is in place for all direct flights between Wuhan and the UK.

Heathrow Airport has said that the three directs Wuhan flights per week it operates are restricted until further notice.


Public health ‘hubs’ have been established at Heathrow Airport to assist those feeling sick on incoming flights from China. Source: Heathrow Airport.

This publication had reached out to PHE to clarify the ‘enhanced monitoring’ programme at Heathrow Airport after an arrivals passenger told the BBC he experienced ‘essentially no screening’ on a direct flight from Wuhan, and was instead handed a leaflet.

It is now gathered that health practitioners and experts have been stationed at Heathrow Airport to aid anyone travelling in from China who feels unwell.

The health ‘hubs’ are being manned by a rotational team of seven clinicians working in shifts.

Should flights from Wuhan to the UK resume, a broadcast would be made to passengers on aircraft to encourage them to report their illness, said PHE.

Other measures include an isolated area at Terminal 4 to receive the aircraft with a General Aircraft Declaration (GAD) made by the captain, prior to passenger disembarkation.

Enhanced monitoring of direct flights will be kept under continuous review and expanded to other Chinese departure points if necessary, added PHE.

As of tomorrow (25 January), the Department of Health and Social Care will be publishing UK-wide figures on the situation.


Globally, there are acute concerns regarding the impact of Coronavirus on air traffic and destination tourism.

According to data from m1nd-set’s *Business 1ntelligence Service (B1S), Thailand will bear the heaviest brunt as a result of the air transport shutdown.

Based on 12-month international traffic data, Thailand accounts for 33% of the circa 1.4 million outbound flights from Wuhan – the largest share by some margin.

Other destinations to suffer in terms of their share of international outbound flights from Wuhan include Japan (12%), Malaysia (10%), Singapore (9%), Hong King (8%) and Indonesia (7%), while Taiwan and South Korea take a smaller share (both 6%).

Both Bangkok Airports (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang) take the lion’s share (21%) of Wuhan origin traffic, followed by Singapore (9%), Hong Kong (7%), Narita and Seoul (both 6%), and Denpasar and Phuket (both 5%).


Source: m1nd-set B1S. Click to enlarge.

China Southern Airlines is the most popular airline operating from Wuhan in terms of outbound international traffic (34%), followed by Thai AirAsia (12%) and Cathay Dragon (7%).

Chinese shoppers’ usually deep duty free pockets for beauty will be hit hardest, but alcohol and fashion & accessories purchases will also suffer, suggests m1nd-set.

Peter Mohn, Owner and CEO, m1nd-set said: “A number of clients have expressed deep concern and want to understand the overall impact the virus will have on the business.

“Our traffic analysis tool enables us to identify all affected destinations, not only the direct destinations but also the final destinations as many passengers from Wuhan transit at a regional hub airport to reach their final destination.

“We can see that of the 56 airlines which operate out of Wuhan, they serve 450 direct destinations and 1055 final destinations. The impact of the Coronavirus will inevitably be felt well beyond Wuhan’s direct connection airports.”

*B1S sources actual and forecast traffic data from IATA’s comprehensive traffic database



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