Tests for coronavirus on 14 people in the UK have come back negative but checks are being carried out on other people, the chief medical officer has said.
Prof Chris Whitty made the announcement on Friday after the Cobra emergency committee met to discuss the threat to the UK and the government sought to calm concerns over the virus, emphasising that the risk to the public was limited.
Prof Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director at Public Health England, said it was still “early days” in the course of the virus and stressed that most of those affected in other countries were making a good recovery.
However, he said, it was highly likely that cases would be seen in the UK.
Hancock said the risk to the UK public remained low.
“The clinical advice is that the risk to the public remains low and the chief medical officer will be making a full statement later today,” he said as he left the Cabinet Office.
Cosford told the Today programme earlier on Friday that contingency plans were ready should cases be detected.
“I think it’s highly likely that we will have cases in the UK, and of course every so often we do get new infections coming from the animal kingdom, such as this one,” he said.
“We do have a whole range of plans ready to go when that is the case and these are being implemented now so our systems are ready to diagnose somebody if they do come to the UK and have this infection. And of course the NHS is prepared to treat people, if they have this infection.”
The Scottish government confirmed on Thursday that five people were being tested after presenting with symptoms of the illness, and it is understood another patient was tested at Belfast’s Royal Victoria hospital.
Two of those being tested in Scotland had been diagnosed with flu after travelling to Wuhan in China, the origin of the global outbreak.
Downing Street said four of the five suspected cases in Scotland were believed to involve Chinese nationals.
The official death toll in China has risen to 26 with more than 830 confirmed cases.