Britain, Russia note first cases; WHO declares emergency

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Britain and Russia on Friday reported their first cases of the deadly coronavirus that has spread from China to at least 20 countries and claimed more than 200 lives.

At least 213 people in China have died from it since the virus erupted in the city of Wuhan. The latest cases added to the 98 cases already reported from 18 other countries. Almost 10,000 people have contracted the illness worldwide.

In Britain, the two cases involved members of the same family who tested positive for the virus.

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said in a statement that Britain’s National Health Service had “robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately” to the outbreak.

“The N.H.S. is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections,” Whitty said. “We are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.”

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A plane carrying eighty-three Britons and 27 foreign nationals who were trapped in Wuhan following a Coronavirus outbreak lands at RAF Brize Norton from China on January 31, 2020 in Brize Norton, England.

Health authorities declined to provide any detail on the condition of the two Britons and did not indicate whether they had recently traveled to China.

A charter passenger jet brought back 83 British nationals from Wuhan on Friday.

In Russia, two Chinese nationals were diagnosed with the virus and placed in isolation.

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Anna Popova, head of Russia’s public health agency Rospotrebnadzor, said the pair have not been in contact with anyone and there is no risk of the virus spreading further.

The Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency, declared a global health emergency on Thursday, focusing primarily on the spread of the virus outside China.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking in Geneva, said China had taken extraordinary steps to try to contain the virus and that the committee was most concerned about its impact in countries with weaker health systems. 

Although the number of coronavirus cases is larger than for the SARS epidemic that broke out in 2003 and spread to more than two dozen countries, the mortality rate is far less.


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