The outbreak of coronavirus in China continues to evolve and a number of cases have been reported in over 20 countries around the world. Although the risk to the public remains moderate we continue to plan and implement targeted services so that we can mount a swift and proportionate response.
Following weeks of preparation our virology laboratory at University Hospital of Wales commenced testing for COVID-19 on the 7th February. Prior to this, testing was undertaken by Public Health England. I would like to thank Public Health Wales for their expertise and dedication in providing this important testing service and for developing and supporting the wider NHS response. More than 100 people have so far been tested in Wales and we have had no confirmed cases to date.
I wrote to the NHS earlier this week advising on the importance of immediate implementation of community assessment and testing services and the establishment of Coronavirus Testing Units separate from Emergency Departments.
Implementing community assessment and testing services allows for people with mild symptoms to remain self-isolated at home where they are attended by trained clinical professionals who can assess their health and undertake the necessary tests. The Coronavirus Testing Units will ensure that individuals who present to our acute hospitals because of concerns they are at risk can receive prompt assessment in an area separate from Emergency Departments. Both measures benefit the individuals without impacting on the day to day services provided by our NHS.
The advice for travellers remains unchanged – 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, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, should self-isolate at home immediately and call NHS Direct Wales or 111, if available in their area. It is important to note that travellers from Wuhan and Hubei province should self-isolate for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, due to the increased risk from that area.
The public can help to lessen the chances of spreading any respiratory virus. The advice is to catch it, bin it, kill it and wash your hands.
I will continue to co-ordinate action with my fellow UK Chief Medical Officers in response to the developing situation. I will keep you regularly informed of developments.
Further information on coronavirus
How coronavirus is transmitted and other 2019 coronavirus facts on Public Health Wales.
How the response to the coronavirus is being managed across the UK on GOV.UK.