Son of Brits who caught coronavirus on Diamond Princess has lost touch with them

The son of a British couple infected with the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan has today revealed he can’t get hold of his parents. 

David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, underwent a series of medical tests after they were taken off the quarantined ship and to a hospital in Yokohama. 

But Sally called her son Stephen in distress at 1am this morning to say the couple were moved to a different hospital ‘more suitable’ to their needs. 

Now Stephen is frantically trying to locate his parents and is considering flying out to Japan to be near them. He told MailOnline: ‘I can’t get hold of them.’

David begged the British Government to evacuate him before he caught the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and even asked billionaire Sir Richard Branson for help.

UK officials have finally confirmed a repatriation flight for the dozens of Brits still on the doomed cruise – five days after the US evacuated 300 residents. 

But in a cruel twist of fate, neither 74-year-old diabetic David or his wife Sally will be allowed on the flight – now delayed until tomorrow morning local time – because they are in hospital receiving treatment.

The virus poses a significant threat to the Abels because elderly and sick people with compromised immune systems are most at risk of serious complications.

The Abel family are distressed by the health of David and Sally, amid fears the couple may have pneumonia – a known complication of the deadly virus.

David (pictured) and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, underwent a series of medical tests after they were taken off the quarantined ship and to a hospital in Yokohama

David (pictured) and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, underwent a series of medical tests after they were taken off the quarantined ship and to a hospital in Yokohama

David (pictured) and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, underwent a series of medical tests after they were taken off the quarantined ship and to a hospital in Yokohama 

David posted a picture of his wife, Sally, also getting treated. She was also taken off the cruise after she tested positive

David posted a picture of his wife, Sally, also getting treated. She was also taken off the cruise after she tested positive

David posted a picture of his wife, Sally, also getting treated. She was also taken off the cruise after she tested positive

But Sally called her son Stephen (pictured) in distress at 1am last night to say the couple were moved to a different hospital 'more suitable' to their needs

But Sally called her son Stephen (pictured) in distress at 1am last night to say the couple were moved to a different hospital 'more suitable' to their needs

But Sally called her son Stephen (pictured) in distress at 1am last night to say the couple were moved to a different hospital ‘more suitable’ to their needs

UK officials have finally confirmed a repatriation flight for the dozens of Brits still on the doomed cruise (pictured) – five days after the US evacuated 300 residents

UK officials have finally confirmed a repatriation flight for the dozens of Brits still on the doomed cruise (pictured) – five days after the US evacuated 300 residents

UK officials have finally confirmed a repatriation flight for the dozens of Brits still on the doomed cruise (pictured) – five days after the US evacuated 300 residents

REVEALED: THE TIMELINE OF THE DELAYED BRITISH EVACUATION FLIGHT 

The US was the first to tell Japan it was going to repatriate hundreds of its citizens on board the cruise ship, revealing plans on February 15.

Pressure then began to mount on the Foreign Office, but it wasn’t until February 20 that ministers confirmed a flight would go ahead.

Officials said the Brits on board would be evacuated on February 21, and taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral to be quarantined for 14 days.

But the British embassy delivered a blow to the plans, saying the logistics were complicated and that the flight would leave 24 hours later.

Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel and South Korea have already rescued around 800 residents – and more than 1,000 have disembarked. 

MailOnline understands the Foreign Office has no idea if all 74 Brits are still on board because it does not keep track of them. 

Stephen told MailOnline: ‘I spoke with them last night and they had just woken up in Japan after their first night sleep [on dry land].

‘They’ve both had all the necessary scans to determine where the virus is and treatment was supposed to begin today.

‘However my mum called me at 1am this morning – very distressed – informing me they’re being moved to another hospital which is more suitable.’

He added: ‘She said she’d text me once they’re there and I’ve had nothing from either of them.

‘I called the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] as soon as I got off the phone to inform them. I’m trying to locate them.’ 

The family in the UK were already concerned and met to discuss the findings of the medical tests and scans on David and Sally’s health.

Although they have not been made public, the couple are feared to have pneumonia, which is part of progression of the coronavirus.

Stephen has declined to discuss the findings of the medical tests but told MailOnline it caused ‘much distress’ to the family. 

The Diamond Princess has been moored in Yokohama since February 3, and more than 630 passengers on the gigantic vessel have caught the coronavirus

The Diamond Princess has been moored in Yokohama since February 3, and more than 630 passengers on the gigantic vessel have caught the coronavirus

The Diamond Princess has been moored in Yokohama since February 3, and more than 630 passengers on the gigantic vessel have caught the coronavirus

David Abel, one of the Brits on board the Diamond Princess who begged the Government to rescue them, posted a picture of himself in a Japanese hostel today while getting treated by medics after he was taken off the cruise when he tested positive for the virus

David Abel, one of the Brits on board the Diamond Princess who begged the Government to rescue them, posted a picture of himself in a Japanese hostel today while getting treated by medics after he was taken off the cruise when he tested positive for the virus

David Abel, one of the Brits on board the Diamond Princess who begged the Government to rescue them, posted a picture of himself in a Japanese hostel today while getting treated by medics on Facebook today

Passengers wearing masks have their body temperatures taken after leaving the ship, docked at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo

Passengers wearing masks have their body temperatures taken after leaving the ship, docked at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo

Passengers wearing masks have their body temperatures taken after leaving the ship, docked at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo

WHICH COUNTRIES WERE QUICKER THAN THE UK TO EVACUATE CITIZENS  STUCK ON THE CRUISE? 

UK: The UK government is in the process of planning an evacuation flight for around 70 citizens on board. The flight is expected to take off tomorrow (February 22) from Tokyo after being delayed by a day.

US: Flew back 340 of its citizens split between two flights on February 16 and 17. 

South Korea: Sent one of its president’s jets to Tokyo on Tuesday, February 18, to evacuate five citizens.

Australia: Evacuated 180 residents from the cruise ship on February 20. 

Hong Kong: Chartered a plane to retrieve 106 citizens on board the Diamond Princess on February 20.

Israel: Commissioned a 14-seat private plane to take 12 Israelis home on February 20 

Canada: More than 200 Canadians were flown to an army base in Ontario on February 21 

Other countries which announced plans before the UK include Italy. 

Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia have all since announced plans to evacuate their residents. 

He said: ‘Today is a new day and we’re all very optimistic they will respond well to the treatment. Just need to find them now.

‘It’s possible [I will fly to Japan] but not confirmed yet. I just need to see how today pans out before I make that decision.’

Stephen added: ‘Also need to see how they both respond to the treatment over the next few days.’ 

David yesterday revealed what it is like to be infected with the deadly coronavirus in a message from his hospital bed in Japan. 

He described collapsing at a Japanese hospital and being put in a wheelchair after he became one of 634 people to catch coronavirus on the vessel. 

In a Facebook post documenting his ordeal with coronavirus, David said: ‘We arrived in lovely hospital a couple of hours ago. 

‘Taken by ambulance blues and twos the entire journey. Outside the hospital I came over a bit weird and nearly passed out. 

‘Every pore on my body opened and I was wheelchaired to our room. Full health inspection and now we know what’s going on.’

David revealed both he and his wife have also caught a cold and would have chest X-rays and urine tests.

But he added: ‘We are both in the best place! They do know what they are doing and our two nurses are gorgeous. Sally likes the Dr too.’ 

An official in a protective suit checks the temperature of passengers who disembarked from the quarantined Diamond Princes

An official in a protective suit checks the temperature of passengers who disembarked from the quarantined Diamond Princes

An official in a protective suit checks the temperature of passengers who disembarked from the quarantined Diamond Princes

Workers dressed in protective gear load luggage of passengers disembarking into a bus, after they were allowed off the cruise

Workers dressed in protective gear load luggage of passengers disembarking into a bus, after they were allowed off the cruise

Workers dressed in protective gear load luggage of passengers disembarking into a bus, after they were allowed off the cruise

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was on his honeymoon with his wife, Wendy, when the coronavirus outbreak broke out on the Diamond Princess cruise ship

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was on his honeymoon with his wife, Wendy, when the coronavirus outbreak broke out on the Diamond Princess cruise ship

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was on his honeymoon with his wife, Wendy, when the coronavirus outbreak broke out on the Diamond Princess cruise ship

DID MEDICAL STAFF AND CREW RUIN THE QUARANTINE ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS?

Lorry driver Alan Steele has accused Diamond Princess staff of exacerbating the spread of the virus by ignoring quarantine measures.

 He said: ‘The quarantine process was a joke. The quarantine people and the crew actually spread it. They exacerbated the problem.’

Several experts have also questioned the effectiveness of the quarantine on the Diamond Princess.

Kentaro Iwata, professor at the infectious diseases division of Japan’s Kobe University, described the situation on board as ‘completely inadequate in terms of infection control’.

Professor Iwata inspected the ship and  posted a video to YouTube highlighting blatant errors, including: 

  • Passengers and crew members were moving freely between the green zone, which is supposedly infection-free, and the virus-hit red zone 
  • People were eating together and sharing living quarters before test results showed whether they were infected or not
  • Too many people were not wearing protective clothing, including medical and cruise staff 
  • There was no professional infection control specialist on board 

The couple, who were sharing a room in hospital yesterday, will need to test negative three times before they are released.

David added: ‘Wi-Fi will not work for me, so this will be the final communication for some time. See you all before you know it.’

In further posts, he revealed the couple were ‘thinking of all the Brits flying to UK tomorrow’. 

Stephen – who has slammed the Government for its handling of the ship – yesterday posted a video reading out some messages he received from his parents.

He said his parents texted him to say they arrived at hospital after 19 minutes – even though the Foreign Office allegedly said it may take around six hours.

Mrs Abel told her son that doctors had pulled a bed into the same room as his father, adding that it was a ‘bit cramped but we will cope’.

And she added that she and her husband were in ‘matching green and white-striped pyjamas’, which she described as ‘very fetching’.

Mrs Abel also revealed that the couple have both had flu and pneumonia jabs, which doctors have claimed has stopped their symptoms from progressing further. 

In other developments today, two British honeymooners joked that they are planning to travel to ‘Butlins on the Wirral’ after both testing negative for coronavirus. 

Mr Steele joked that they'd be going to 'Butlins, the Wirral' for 14 days - a reference to being quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside for a fortnight

Mr Steele joked that they'd be going to 'Butlins, the Wirral' for 14 days - a reference to being quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside for a fortnight

Mr Steele joked that they’d be going to ‘Butlins, the Wirral’ for 14 days – a reference to being quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside for a fortnight

He said Wendy was 'struggling' on the Diamond Princess on her own and blasted the Foreign Office for 'forgetting' about them

He said Wendy was 'struggling' on the Diamond Princess on her own and blasted the Foreign Office for 'forgetting' about them

He said Wendy was ‘struggling’ on the Diamond Princess on her own and blasted the Foreign Office for ‘forgetting’ about them

PROTESTERS IN UKRAINE ATTACK BUSES CARRYING EVACUEES FROM WUHAN 

Protesters in Ukraine were seen attacking six buses carrying evacuees from the epicentre of the coronavirus in China.

They lit fires to block the roads leading to the hospital in Novi Sanzhary, in the central Poltava region, where evacuees were being taken and threw rocks as the buses drove past.

Armoured vehicles carrying hundreds of armed police, national guardsmen and fire fighters were deployed to unblock the roads.

The evacuees, 45 Ukrainians and 37 foreign nationals, were flown from Wuhan in China to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine yesterday.

The country’s president, Volodymryr Zelensky asked the protesters to show some empathy towards their fellow citizens.

According to the country’s security service, the protest may have been sparked by a fake email which falsely claimed to be from the department of health that said some of the evacuees had the Covid-19 virus.

Ukraine currently has no confirmed cases of the virus. The country’s health ministry said none of the evacuees were sick.

To show solidarity with those who will be forced into quarantine, Ukraine’s health minister will quarantine herself with them.

Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said: ‘I will spend the next 14 days with them, in the same premises, under the same conditions.’

Alan Steele was removed from the Diamond Princess and sent to a Japanese hospital a fortnight ago, leaving his wife Wendy on board, after catching the virus.

After testing negative for the virus, Mr Steele was released from hospital and put up in a five-star hotel overlooking Yokohama harbour.

Posting on Facebook today, Mr Steele said: ‘Wendy’s test was negative so Butlins the Wirral here we come for 14 days.’ 

Mr Steele, of Wolverhampton, yesterday blasted the Foreign Office for abandoning Britons on the virus-ridden ship.

In a scathing attack on the UK Government, Mr Steele accused ministers of ‘treating us badly’ and added: ’74 Brits, what the hell do they matter?’

The British embassy in Tokyo today revealed the evacuation of UK nationals trapped onboard the Diamond Princess has been delayed by a day.

Ministers yesterday announced a flight would finally leave Tokyo on Friday evening local time and fly 74 Brits to MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.

Those flown to the military base would then be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral to spend two weeks in quarantine before being allowed home.

But the British embassy said the evacuation flight won’t leave until Saturday morning because it was ‘logistically complicated’, the BBC reports.

Ministers have been blasted for its dire handling of the evacuation. It also received criticism for being slow to evacuate Brits in Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak.

The US, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Israel have all airlifted more than 800 cruise passengers between them earlier in the week.

MORE THAN 500 CASES OF THE VIRUS ARE DIAGNOSED IN PRISONS ACROSS CHINA 

More than 500 cases of the new coronavirus have been detected in prisons across China, officials said today, fuelling concerns about new clusters of the epidemic.

At least nine Communist officials and two prison chiefs from three provinces were sacked as a result before Beijing sent out a special team to investigate the situation.

Overnight, China’s National Health Commission reported 889 new cases. The figure more than doubles the toll from the day before, which was a record low in weeks.

Globally, the coronavirus epidemic has killed at least 2,247 people and infected more than 76,700, and has spread to at least two dozen countries.

Hubei, the hard-hit central province where the virus emerged late last year, said Friday that 271 cases were reported by its prisons on Thursday, including 220 that had previously not been known to provincial authorities.

Brits on the Diamond Princess, which scientists have warned is an ideal breeding ground for the virus, have accused ministers of ‘forgetting’ about them.

More than 2,000 people have left ship already and most of the approximately 1,200 remaining aboard are being let off today.

It means the Brits on the virus-ridden ship will be among the last passengers to leave it. 

MailOnline understands the Foreign Office does not know how many UK nationals are still on board because some may have already chosen to leave.

The Diamond Princess has been moored in Yokohama since February 3, and more than 630 passengers on the gigantic vessel have caught the coronavirus.   

The Diamond Princess was carrying more than 3,700 people in early February when 10 passengers were diagnosed with the Covid-19 strain of the disease.

Since being quarantined in the port of Yokohama, 634 passengers and crew have been infected – more than half of all the confirmed cases outside of China.

Passengers who have tested negative for the coronavirus began disembarking from the Diamond Princess ship on Wednesday – when the official quarantine ended. 

Once passengers have left the ship, they will be permitted to travel freely, according to reports. 

The average incubation period for coronavirus is a fortnight – so anyone who does not show symptoms in that time is unlikely to have it. But this is not always the case. 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE DEADLY CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA?

Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

Over 2,000 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 75,000 have been infected. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus has almost certainly come from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent similar to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to that date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed, but also far more widespread. 

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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