January 24, 2020 / 8:39 AM / 24 days ago

UK 'highly likely' to have cases of coronavirus, health boss says

People wear masks as they walk in Chinatown district, in London, Britain January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Cases of new coronavirus in the United Kingdom are highly likely but none has been confirmed so far, health bosses said on Friday.

As concern mounted about the outbreak in China, Britain’s emergency committee - known as COBR - met to discuss the threat and response.

“COBR met today to discuss the situation in Wuhan, China, and elsewhere in Asia,” said Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty.

“There are no confirmed cases in the UK to date,” Whitty said. “We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track-record of managing new forms of infectious disease.”

A new public health hub would be set up at Heathrow airport, he added.

Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England, said it was “highly likely that we will have cases in the UK.”

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus an emergency for China but stopped short of declaring it of international concern.

So far the virus has killed 26 people and infected more than 800.

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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