The NHS has started testing people for coronavirus in their own homes in London. The new approach will be expanded to other areas outside the capital in the coming weeks.

The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK nationals to leave China where possible. It is also warning that travellers from Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand who develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath within 14 days of returning the UK should contact the NHS by phone.

Justin McCurry

Prof Keith Willett, the NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus, said: “We have started to pilot home testing for coronavirus in London, which will be carried out by NHS staff, like nurses or paramedics, allowing people to stay home rather than having to travel, which is safer for you and your family and limits the spread of infection.

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“Anyone who is concerned they have signs and symptoms should continue to use NHS 111 as their first point of contact. They will tell you exactly what you need to do and, where necessary, the right place to be tested.

Coronavirus graphic

“People should also play their part by following public health advice: wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and put used tissues in the bin immediately.

“I would also like to thank the NHS staff who are back in Arrowe Park [hospital] ready to provide excellent care and support to the British nationals who are returning from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.”

Dozens of Britons who have spent more than two weeks on the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship off the Japanese coast are preparing to return home this weekend. A repatriation flight for those quarantined on the ship, which was initially due to leave on Friday, will instead depart in the early hours of Saturday local time.

About 35 British nationals were confirmed as booked on the flight. A small number of EU citizens will also be on board, as well as UK government medics, sources said.

The passengers are due to land at the Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base, near Salisbury in Wiltshire. Only those without symptoms will be allowed to board the plane, and all the passengers will be taken to Arrowe Park in Wirral for 14 days of quarantine.



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