Four Brighton residents, three men and one woman, have been transferred to London for specialist care having been diagnosed with coronavirus over the weekend. Public Health England (PHE) later confirmed that two of the four were healthcare workers.
One of those diagnosed is a GP who works at the County Oak Medical Centre in Hollingbury, which closed yesterday with a notice on its doors telling patients it was “closed due to operational difficulties” . Workers wearing protective HAZMAT suits were later pictured cleaning the surgery and pharmacy.
This means that five out the the eight confirmed UK cases of the virus have been diagnosed in Brighton.
However, according to Dr Nathalie MacDermott, Infectious Disease Specialist at King’s College London, Brighton residents still do not need to panic. Appearing on Channel 4 News last night, MacDermott said:
We’ve got very robust contact tracing methods. We can link all these new cases back to the third case in the UK from Thursday last week, and they’ve all now been tested and isolated.
[People in Brighton] don’t need to take any further precautions. The best thing they can do is regularly wash their hands. Masks are of limited utility, so at the moment Public Health England’s advice is not to wear masks because we don’t really know how effective they are, particularly not the basic surgical masks that you’re seeing.
Despite this, the news that the Government has now declared the coronavirus outbreak a “serious and imminent threat to public health” is likely to cause citizens a significant degree of anxiety. However, it should be remembered that according to Public Health England, the actual risk to individuals remains just “moderate”, and that it was necessary for the Government to make this declaration so it could forcibly detain people suspected of having the virus.
The Government is now focused on rapidly identifying people with the disease and taking them to specialist hospitals for treatment in isolation, as well as tracing anybody who has come into close contact with patients to make sure they know the signs of the disease and what to do.
Government guidelines encourage anyone experiencing symptoms, even if mild, after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service. Other citizens are encouraged to frequently wash their hands and maintain high levels of hygiene.