Patients treated by two healthcare workers diagnosed with coronavirus in Brighton are being urgently tracked down by officials.
About a dozen patients are believed to have been in contact with the pair, who were working in general practice at the County Oak Medical Centre.
A second County Oak branch – in the Deneway area of Brighton – was also closed on Tuesday with a phone message citing urgent operational health and safety reasons.
All four, and another case the day before, contracted the virus in France after coming into contact with a man – now named as Steve Walsh – who became infected in Singapore before flying to the French Alps.
He was then diagnosed in Brighton on 6 February, making him the UK’s third case, before being taken to the infectious diseases unit at St Thomas’ hospital in London.
The 53-year-old businessman is linked to 11 cases, including the five in the UK and six Britons in France and Majorca, prompting fears he is a superspreader.
Five Britons, including a nine-year-old boy, are in quarantine in France after contracting the virus in the ski resort of Les Contamines Montjoie from the man.
Jerome Salomon, head of France’s national health agency, said 61 people including the boy’s schoolmates were tested for the virus but all were negative.
The latest coronavirus updates:
- On Tuesday, 109 people died in mainland China, topping 100 for the first time and bringing the total to 1,016
- There were 2,478 new confirmed cases on the mainland, down from 3,062 the day before, with the total at 42,638
- Around the world 462 cases are confirmed in 27 countries, with a death in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines
- A block of flats in Hong Kong was evacuated after two cases, raising suspicion the virus was spreading through plumbing
- Nearly 4,000 foreign nationals from around the world have been evacuated from Wuhan
- A total of 35 airlines have cancelled or suspended flights to China, or some Chinese cities
- On a quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama 135 cases are confirmed out of 3,711 passengers and crew
- European and US shares rose to a record high as investors assessed how quickly China’s factories could return to work
- More than 300 Chinese firms are seeking bank loans of at least 57.4bn yuan (£6.38bn) to soften the virus’ impact.
World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new UK cases were concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China.
He warned such spread could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire as he urged countries to work to contain the virus to prevent a bigger fire.
The director general said although 99% of cases are in China it holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world.
Public Health England’s medical director Yvonne Doyle said: We are now working urgently to identify all patients and other healthcare workers who may have come into close contact, and at this stage we believe this to be a relatively small number.
The County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton’s Carden Hill area also remained closed on Tuesday after people wearing haz mat suits were seen cleaning the surgery on Monday.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it is still more likely that anyone with flu-like symptoms will have the flu.
He said: However, in light of the members of staff who tested positive for coronavirus in Brighton we’d like to remind the public that it is vital that any patient who thinks they may have symptoms does not try to attend a GP appointment or hospital emergency departments in person.
They should stay at home and call NHS 111.
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared the virus a serious and imminent threat to the British public.
The move gives health professionals legal powers to keep those in supported isolation against their will after one patient threatened to escape from Arrowe Park Hospital where some of those evacuated from Wuhan are being kept in isolation.