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Is Wales prepared to cope with the Coronavirus?

Is Wales ready?: With Coronavirus in the UK, some say it’s likely to make it Wales, too. Source: Dr. Fred Murphy (via Wikimedia Commons)

By Olly Davies

On Thursday 30 January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global emergency following the widespread outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus. There are already more cases of Coronavirus than in the entire 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which infected more than 24 countries.

Public Health Wales has released a statement saying that there are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Wales so far, however, it is “very likely” that there will be cases of Coronavirus in the country, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr. Frank Atherton, has said.

The mortality rate of this strain of Coronavirus is fairly low at 2% when compared to SARS’ 10% and Ebola’s 70%. However, with more people catching this disease, this number is expected to change.

There are currently two confirmed cases of Wuhan Coronavirus in England, something which Dr. Atherton describes as “not very surprising” to doctors. The Dr. also reassured that the UK is well-prepared to deal with any cases of the virus.

Speaking to BBC Wales, he added: “We have been saying for some time that it’s very likely we’ll see cases in the UK. The news today that we have got a couple of cases identified in England isn’t very surprising…and the four UK Chief Medical Officers consider it prudent for governments and the NHS to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.

“We are now recommending that all travellers who develop flu-like symptoms however mild, (these symptoms could be a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing) within 14 days of returning from mainland China, should self-isolate at home immediately and call the NHS” on 111.

Cardiff University has also issued guidance to concerned students. Speaking to Gair Rhydd, a Cardiff University spokesperson said: “Ensuring the safety and welfare of our staff and students is a priority and we are monitoring the Coronavirus situation as it unfolds. We are following the latest advice from the Foreign Office, World Health Organisation and Public Health Wales. We continue to share this advice with our staff and students.

“This is a constantly evolving situation and we will keep our staff and students informed of any updates or actions needed.”

The University also states that for those who are impacted by the Coronavirus, they should contact their Academic School as soon as possible and will not be regarded as absent. It further states that the Interruption of studies procedure is automatically applied to students who are absent for over 14 days and “these situations will be treated as exceptional circumstances by Examining Boards”.

It has been revealed that “a small number” of patients are being tested for Coronavirus in Wales. Discussing the virus in Wales, Dr. Giri Shankar, Professional Lead Consultant for Health Protection at Public Health Wales, said: “For reasons of patient confidentiality Public Health Wales is not able to comment on individual cases.

“We can confirm that all Welsh residents that meet the current testing criteria are being offered testing. We are not disclosing the number of individuals tested in Wales because they are so low they run the risk of being patient-identifiable.

“There are currently no confirmed cases of novel Coronavirus in Wales.”

Last Tuesday, the Foreign Office urged all British nationals to leave China to avoid exposure to the Coronavirus. There are currently 30,000 British nationals living in the country and Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, has said: “Where there are still British nationals in Hubei province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this.”

At the end of January, over 170 tests for the virus had been concluded in the UK.

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