UK confirms 163 coronavirus cases after highest daily rise so far | World news

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has risen by 47 – the highest daily increase to date – to 163, as two British Airways baggage handlers tested positive for Covid-19.

The Department of Health said the new cases, a 40% increase on the previous day, mean there are now 29 cases in London, 24 in south-east England, 22 in the south-west and 21 in the north-west.

The previous biggest numerical daily increase was the 36 new cases announced on Wednesday, when the total number stood at 87, just over half the current amount.

A British Airways spokesman said two staff members had been isolated and were recovering at home after Public Health England confirmed they had tested positive.

The airline confirmed the two staff members were baggage handlers will raise fears that they may have inadvertently spread the disease. They are both based at Heathrow airport.

It is possible to pick up the virus on your hands from a surface that somebody with the infection had touched, although it is more likely to be transmitted by other means. The virus can linger for 48 hours or even possibly 72 hours on a hard surface, which is why such an emphasis is placed on handwashing.

The travel industry has already been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The contagion proved the last straw for the Exeter-based airline Flybe, which collapsed into administration on Thursday. On Wednesday , the German airline Lufthansa grounded 150 planes amid low demand.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “A dedicated Public Health England team is operating at Heathrow to respond to any incidents at the airport, and we are working closely with them to ensure our colleagues are following their latest guidance in its entirety to protect themselves and our passengers.

“In line with Public Health England’s advice, we have enhanced thorough cleaning processes, increased the availability and provision of hand-sanitisers for our colleagues and continue to advise anyone working or travelling through the airport to follow the government’s advice to maintain good hand hygiene.”

A man who died at Milton Keynes University hospital in Buckinghamshire on Friday is understood to have tested positive in one of two tests to confirm the illness. The second test has yet to be carried out.

The first coronavirus death in the UK was confirmed on Thursday. She was a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions who who was admitted to the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading on Wednesday.

The other cases are in the east of England (11), the Midlands (12) and the north-east and Yorkshire (13). The location of a further 15 cases has not been provided. A further 20,175 people have tested negative across the UK.

As the number of cases continues to grow a £46m fund has been announced by the government in an effort to find a vaccine and come up with quicker testing for the illness.

Officials from the Department for International Development hope the money will help in the development of the eight possible coronavirus vaccines being worked on by scientists.

The investment comes as Boris Johnson visited Mologic laboratory in Bedfordshire, which is using some of the aid funding to develop tests for medical professionals and potentially, home testing.

A rapid diagnostic test could also be used by low-income countries around the world that are not currently able to diagnose the virus at all.

The government has said British experts are at the forefront of fighting the virus.

Public Health England (PHE) called on members of the public to “plan ahead” for if they had to self-isolate for a couple of weeks.

In two new blogposts, PHE said more people may be asked to self-isolate at home to help slow the spread of coronavirus, while “social distancing” measures such as not going to cinemas, pubs or sporting events may be needed in the future.

At least 142 Britons are among more than 2,000 passengers and crew being quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of California because of fears they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

No one was allowed to leave the Grand Princess, which was stuck off the coast of San Francisco, with guests being confined to their rooms pending test results. Meals were delivered to their cabins and they had been given free internet access and extra films to watch on the onboard televisions, Princess Cruises said.

Last week, a passenger on its sister ship, the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan, became the first UK citizen to die from the virus.

How to stop the spread of coronavirus – video explainer
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The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided it is used correctly.

Justin McCurry

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