Coronavirus: UK cases rise to 164, government confirms

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The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has reached 164.

A fourth person was diagnosed in Northern Ireland late on Friday, taking the number of cases since Thursday to 49 – the biggest increase in one day.

Meanwhile, samples taken from an elderly man who died at Milton Keynes Hospital are currently being investigated for coronavirus.

The BBC understands the man, in his 80s, had underlying health issues but more tests for the virus are ongoing.

The UK’s first death linked to the virus came on Thursday, after a woman with underlying health conditions in her 70s died in hospital in Reading.

As well as her death in the UK, a British man also died from the virus last month after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

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Some people are wearing masks, although it is not official government advice

The Department of Health said as of 9:00 GMT on Friday, 20,338 people had been tested.

The latest number of confirmed cases comprises 147 cases in England, 11 in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales. On Friday night, a fourth person in Northern Ireland was diagnosed with the virus but their test sample is awaiting verification in a laboratory in England.

Of the cases in England there are:

  • 29 in London
  • 24 in the South East
  • 22 in the South West
  • 21 in the North West
  • 13 in the North East and Yorkshire
  • 12 in the Midlands
  • 11 in the East of England
  • 15 not yet confirmed

In Scotland, there are three cases in Grampian, two in Fife, two in Forth Valley and one each in Lothian, Tayside, Ayrshire & Arran and Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

About 45 of the confirmed cases have been self-isolating at home, while 18 people have recovered.

Earlier, the UK government pledged to spend £46m more on urgent work to tackle the coronavirus – including more money to develop a vaccine and cash to help some of the most vulnerable countries prepare for an outbreak.

The money will fund work on eight possible vaccines which are already in development as well as a lab in Bedford to try to create a test that could provide results within 20 minutes.

Currently, tests take a couple of days to provide results.

On Monday, the government is holding a meeting to discuss the practicalities of holding sport events behind closed doors and without fans, if the outbreak worsens and mass gatherings are banned.

In other developments:

  • Facebook is closing its London office for the weekend after it was discovered that a Singapore-based employee who visited last week has been diagnosed with the virus. Staff members have been told to work from home until Monday
  • British Airways said two members of their staff at Heathrow Airport – believed to be from the baggage team – had tested positive for the virus, which causes the disease Covid-19. The two employees are now self-isolating at home
  • More than 140 British nationals – including 21 crew members – are stranded on a cruise ship which has been prevented from docking in San Francisco while tests are carried out
  • Visitors to a hospital in Northampton have been stealing hand sanitising gel daily, with bottles taken from patients’ beds and dispensers from walls
  • Delivery company Hermes announced £1m to help support their self-employed couriers if they need to self-isolate. The move has been praised by the GMB Union
  • A church in Devon has been closed for a deep clean after a parishioner tested positive and a Hare Krishna temple near Watford has also closed because of a coronavirus case among its congregation
  • The latest drive-through coronavirus test centre has opened, this time in north-east Wales, where people do not need to leave their cars to be tested
  • Starbucks branches and train operator LNER have temporarily banned reusable cups in response to the outbreak

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Boris Johnson visited a lab in Bedford on Friday

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Shoppers have reported being unable to buy hand sanitiser with shelves empty

On Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a BBC Question Time audience he was “absolutely confident” food supplies would not run out, amid concerns some people were stockpiling.

But a supermarket executive told the BBC sales of cupboard basics had “gone through the roof” and he was not sure the government could guarantee food supply in all instances.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s official spokesman previously said it was “highly likely the virus is going to spread in a significant way”.

The government said the UK was still in the first phase of its four-part plan to tackle the virus outbreak, which is made up of: contain, delay, research and mitigate.

But officials were ramping up work to prepare for the next phase, the PM’s spokesman added.

The government is still deciding what measures will be taken in the delay phase, but has previously said this could include banning big events, closing schools, encouraging people to work from home and discouraging the use of public transport.

Earlier this week, the country’s chief medical adviser Prof Whitty said half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period.

Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has now passed 100,000, with 3,400 deaths.

The government has updated its advice for Italy – the country in Europe that has been hit worst by the virus and which has seen more than 4,600 cases. The country recorded another 49 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number up to 197.

Travellers who develop symptoms after returning from any part of Italy – not just the north of the country – should self-isolate, while those returning from quarantined areas should self-isolate even without symptoms.

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