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Coronavirus outbreak: Bristol police stations closed after Chinese detainee falls ill

Kate Ng
A Health official checks passengers going through a thermal scanner upon their arrival: EPA

A Chinese detainee who displayed flu-like symptoms prompted the shutdown of two police stations in Bristol.

Avon and Somerset Police closed its Patchway and Trinity Road sites on Wednesday night as a precaution when a detainee fell ill.

There were “initial concerns” the detainee, a Chinese national, may have been in contact with people who travelled from Wuhan, where an outbreak of coronavirus has paralysed the city.

More than 640 cases of the virus have been confirmed so far, and 17 people have died. Eight cases have also been identified in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the US, and, most recently, Singapore.

Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, has been placed on lockdown and all transport has been shut down in an attempt to quarantine the new virus.

The force said in a statement: “Following precautionary advice from NHS and health practitioners, Patchway police centre was temporarily closed along with Trinity Road police station in Bristol, where officers involved in the arrest had travelled to.

“As well as officers and members of police staff, there was one member of the public at Trinity Road police station, who was asked to remain in the building as a precaution while we sought further advice.”

Following the advice of Public Health England, the detainee was found not to be suffering from the “much-publicised novel coronavirus” and both police stations were reopened after midnight.

”The detainee has been given the appropriate medical attention and remains in custody at this time,” said police.

“We’d like to assure our communities there is no risk to the public.”

Business secretary Andrea Leadsom said the virus was a “huge concern for the world” and the Department of Health announced a series of precautionary measures for flights arriving from Wuhan to London Heathrow.

The Department of Health and Public Health England issued a joint statement on Wednesday that said: “The risk to the UK population has been assessed as low, based on emerging evidence regarding case numbers, potential sources and human to human transmission.

“This has been raised from very low due to evidence on the likelihood of cases being imported into this country.”

However, Chinese officials are worried the transmission rate will increase as hundreds of millions of people travel home or abroad for Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

Travelling during Lunar New Year marks the world’s biggest mass migration – making containment of the coronavirus an unprecedented challenge.

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service, said: “This is a new and rapidly evolving situation where information on cases and the virus is being gathered and assessed daily.

“We are working with the World Health Organisation and other international partners, have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.

“If you are travelling to Wuhan, you should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms,” he added.

Dr Phin urged anyone experiencing respiratory symptoms within two weeks of visiting the city to seek medical attention.

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