Three more patients from England test positive for coronavirus
29 February 2020, 14:11 | Updated: 29 February 2020, 21:14
Three more patients from England have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 23.
Two of the patients had recently travelled back from Italy while the other had returned from Asia, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said.
The three cases - one in Gloucestershire, one in Hertfordshire and another in Berkshire - are being investigated and any individuals who had contact with the patients are now being traced.
The first case of coronavirus in the Irish Republic - a male in the eastern part of the island - was also confirmed today, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan announced.
More than 10,000 people in the UK have been tested for the virus, also known as Covid-19 - with 23 confirmed as positive.
It comes as health officials continue to trace a patient who became the first to catch the illness within the UK.
It was not clear if the patient had contracted the virus "directly or indirectly" from somebody who had recently travelled abroad, Prof Whitty said.
He added that the patient had been transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at Guy's and St Thomas'.
Boris Johnson spoke with Chief Medical Officer Prof Whitty and Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Saturday, Downing Street said.
The Prime Minister is receiving regular updates and there will be another call on Sunday, No 10 added.
As of 9am on Saturday, more than 10,000 people in the UK had been tested for the virus, also known as Covid-19 - with 23 confirmed as positive.
The news comes after the first coronavirus patient to catch the illness within the UK was confirmed, on the same day a man who had been on a quarantined cruise ship became the first Briton to die from the virus.
Health leaders confirmed on Friday that a 20th patient had tested positive for the virus, and that it had been passed on within the UK.
Confirming the latest case in England on Friday evening, Prof Whitty said: "One further patient in England has tested positive for Covid-19.
"The virus was passed on in the UK.
"It is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad.
"This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun.
"The patient has been transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at Guy's and St Thomas'."
Meanwhile, a British man, reported to be in his 70s and said to have lived abroad, was confirmed as the first UK citizen to die from coronavirus.
The man, who was on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship which has been quarantined off Japan's coast amid the outbreak, was the sixth person from the vessel to have died.
The developments came as the Government prepares to bring in new emergency powers to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
The powers will give schools, councils and other parts of the public sector powers to suspend laws - including health and safety measures - to cope with a pandemic.
Teachers and nursery workers will be allowed to have larger classes to cope with staff absences under the laws, which are due to be introduced next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the coronavirus was "now the Government's top priority" as critics accused him of failing to take a lead on the UK response.
He told reporters on Friday that he had met with the Health Secretary and chief medical officer to discuss the preparations.
He said: "On the issue of coronavirus, which obviously is a great concern to people, I just want to reassure everybody and say that the NHS is making every possible preparation.
"As you can imagine, the issue of coronavirus is something that is now the Government's top priority."