British health officials said Friday two people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, in the country’s first cases since the deadly outbreak emerged in China and spread globally this month.
The announcement came as Britain prepares to receive 87 of its citizens it has evacuated from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the epidemic which has so far killed 213 people.
With a growing number of cases reported in at least 19 other countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declared the SARS-like virus’ spread an international public health emergency.
Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, insisted the country was “extremely well-prepared” and that officials were working with the WHO and others “to ensure we are ready for all eventualities”.
“We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus,” he said in a statement.
Whitty added the patients were receiving specialist care, including “tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus”.
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place,” he added, noting officials were working to identify any contacts the patients had.
Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency reported the two patients are being treated at a hospital in Newcastle, in northeast England. AFP