Medical staff outside a hospital in Wuhan where patients have contracted pneumonia from coronavirus – Image: REUTERS

Seventeen people have died and hundreds more taken ill as a result of the coronavirus, a SARS-like condition, which has spread from China to the US, Japan and South Korea.

“Now Brits are being warned to avoid all but essential travel to the region,” the Mirror reports tonight.

“The city of Wuhan – where the virus is believed to have originated – has been put on lockdown, with local transport networks set to close at 10am tomorrow,” the report said.

“Its airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers as officials desperately struggle to contain the outbreak.

“Heathrow Airport has already set up a separate area for passengers arriving from Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – to keep them away from other travellers.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said this evening: “In light of the latest medical information, including reports of some person-to-person transmission, and the Chinese authorities’ own advice, we are now advising against all but essential travel to Wuhan.

“The safety and security of British nationals is always our primary concern, and we advise British nationals travelling to China to remain vigilant and check our travel advice on”

Now there are fears the virus, “which can cause pneumonia, could spread to Britain and other countries in the coming days as hundreds of millions of Chinese residents travel domestically and abroad for the busy Lunar New Year”.

The human coronavirus causes respiratory infections – Image: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said Public Health England is putting in place new precautions in relation to travellers to the UK from the region, the report said.

“There have been some announcements this morning about flights that come direct from the affected region to Heathrow with some additional measures there,” he told Sky News.

“At the moment Public Health England have moved this from ‘very low’ to ‘low’ but obviously we want to stay ahead of the issue so we are keeping a very close eye on it.

“Initially this is to ensure that when flights come in directly into Heathrow there is a separate area for people to arrive in.”

According to the report: “Research conducted at China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests it shared a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars.

“The latter disease was a virus found in fruit bats which transferred to humans and claimed 774 lives.”
SCMP reported: “Fortunately, in its current form the coronavirus is a weaker strain than its early 2000s relative.

“It is thought that fruit bats are also natural Ebola virus hosts, according to the World Health Organisation.

“Gao Fu, director of the disease management centre, believes the virus originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

“He warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating.”

Health officials are expected to make an announcement on Thursday as to whether or not this is a global outbreak.

  • Top Feature Photo: So far 17 people have died as a result of the virusImage: STRINGER/EPA-EFE/REX