Coronavirus mutating and could spread health officials warn

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

China has said that 440 people have now contracted a mysterious virus known as Coronavirus.

The Sar-like disease has killed nine people with more than 2,000 close contacts reported and 1,394 under medical watch.

The Chinese government has put measures in place in an attempt to slow down the spread of the disease. They have also advised residents of Wuhan not to leave the city.

The virus is said to be mutating and could spread further, health officials have warned.

The UK has also announced precautionary measures to monitor flights arriving from the country.

The measures, to be announced by the health secretary later, will apply to flights from Wuhan to London Heathrow. There are currently three direct flights a week from Wuhan to London Heathrow.

Mr Shapps said it was important to "stay ahead of the issue" and monitor the situation very carefully.

Public Health England has upgraded the risk to the UK population from very low to low, the transport secretary said.

China’s national health commission, in its first major press briefing since the outbreak was identified in late December, said the virus is mainly passed through the respiratory tract and the nation was now at the most critical stage of prevention and control.

Most cases have been in Wuhan and Chinese authorities believe the virus originated from a seafood market that "conducted illegal transactions of wild animals". However, it has also spread to other Chinese cities.

A handful of cases have been identified abroad, including in Japan. There have been no cases reported in Britain.

The United States confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus on its territory on Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control said the virus had been diagnosed in a US resident who arrived in Seattle from China.

Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected in China, with symptoms including fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The viral infection can also cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.

Though the origin of the virus is still to be identified, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the primary source is probably an animal.

The local government has cancelled public activities during the holiday, including the annual prayer-giving at the city’s Guiyan Temple - which attracted 700,000 tourists last year. Tour groups heading out of the city have also been cancelled.

Wuhan’s mayor Zhou Xianwang urged residents not to leave the city and for visitors to avoid it so that the possibility of transmission is reduced.

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday, appealed to citizens not to visit central China.

“I want to call on our nationals please not to visit this region if not necessary,” Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page.

North Korea has temporarily closed its borders to foreign tourists in response to the threat.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday that it will allow cabin crew to wear surgical masks on mainland flights, after a flight attendant union said it had been flooded with messages of concern from members.

The Chinese government has been providing daily updates on the number of cases in a bid to reassure the public.

Some of the countries affected at a glance


One case in Taiwan has been identified after a woman in her 50s returned from Wuhan with a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.


Philippine health officials confirmed on Tuesday that a five-year-old Chinese child has been infected with the virus. Relevant teams are still awaiting the results of tests to determine the exact strain of the virus.


Medical authorities in Japan have confirmed that a citizen who had returned to Tokyo from Wuhan, China, had contracted the virus last Thursday.

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