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23 January 2020
Scottish Government confirms five people being tested for coronavirus

Medical staff attend a ceremony to form a "assault team" in Wuhan. Image credit: Cheng Min/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Scottish Government confirms five people being tested for coronavirus

The Scottish Government has confirmed five people in Scotland are being tested for coronavirus, however there are currently no confirmed cases of the disease in the UK.

Earlier on Thursday, the government had issued a statement that confirmed three people were being tested.

“Following travel to Wuhan, China, two people confirmed as diagnosed with influenza are now being tested for Wuhan Novel Coronavirus as a precautionary measure only. Three further people are also undergoing testing on a similar precautionary basis,” a Scottish Government spokesperson said, in the new statement.

“As the situation develops we will update should there be any confirmed cases of coronavirus, rather than provide a running update on cases being considered on a precautionary basis.

“We are co-orientating with Health Protection Scotland a daily incident management team to continue to monitor the situation as it develops, including on the number of any potential cases going forward.”

The spokesperson said there were “currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland and the risk to the Scottish public remains low”.

The new strain of the virus has killed 17 people in China, spread to a number of other countries and there are more than 500 confirmed cases. 

The spokesperson said Scotland had “robust arrangements to manage emerging diseases and are monitoring this situation closely”.

Specifically, the government was making “appropriate preparations” so that anyone arriving at Heathrow Airport from Wuhan, where the disease is reported to have originated, and transferring to a flight to Scotland “will, along with all other arriving passengers, be met by a health team from Public Health England at Heathrow who will check for symptoms”.

The spokesperson said Health Protection Scotland would issue “updated guidance to NHS Scotland boards this evening”.

“The current advice to travellers is against all but essential travel to Wuhan. Passengers should take precautions such as practicing good hand hygiene, personal and respiratory hygiene, and to minimise contact with birds and animals in markets in Wuhan or elsewhere in China.

“Any travellers returning from Wuhan or elsewhere in China who become unwell, particularly with respiratory symptoms, within 14 days of their return, are advised to call their GP or NHS 111 and report their recent travel.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the issue during earlier on Thursday, during First Minister’s Questions.

“I should say that the risk to the public in Scotland and, indeed, in the United Kingdom is currently classified as low, but obviously that is kept under review,” she said.

“Health Protection Scotland is liaising with national health service boards and is currently in daily contact with Public Health England and liaising daily with colleagues in the UK Department of Health and Social Care. We are also paying close attention to the decisions of and advice from the World Health Organization.”

The FM said “enhanced monitoring measures have been implemented for flights from Wuhan city to Heathrow”, which meant a port health team was meeting each direct flight. The health team will check passengers for symptoms of the virus and give them information.

“We are considering whether any further information could helpfully be provided at Scottish airports,” she said, adding: “Obviously, the situation is evolving, and we will monitor it extremely closely. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport or I will ensure that parliament is appropriately updated in the days and weeks to come.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said Health Secretary Jeane Freeman “will have the full support of the Lib Dems in any measures she needs to put through Parliament”.

“The Health Secretary must ensure that the public are kept up to date on progress in tackling this outbreak,” he said.

The World Health Organisations states coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, but a “novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans”.

This recent outbreak has been linked to possible exposure to infection at the South China Seafood City market in Wuhan.

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