Practice closures continue as confirmed UK coronavirus cases rise

At least 25 GP practices in England have been forced to close temporarily for cleaning since mid-February amid concerns over coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 35 over the weekend.

Practice closures (Photo: Chris McLoughlin/Getty Images)

A total of 11,750 tests have been carried out across the UK, with 11,715 returning negative results, according to official figures published on 1 March.

Following the first confirmed case of transmission of COVID-19 within the UK in recent days, Public Health England (PHE) medical director Dr Paul Cosford told the BBC on Monday that it was now 'highly likely' that widespread transmission would occur within the UK.

Some practice closures have been precautionary and lasted just hours, with tests on suspected cases later coming back negative. The Buxton Medical Practice, in Derbyshire, however was forced to close for a day late last week after a confirmed case.

Coronavirus

A statement from the practice said: 'We have had a confirmed case of coronavirus and were advised to close the practice yesterday, Thursday 27 February 2020.

‘We spent the day liaising with PHE and the CCG to ensure all appropriate actions have been taken.
PHE has advised that we can re-open today, following yesterday's professional deep clean and that there is NO need for further testing for patients or staff.’

A rise in confirmed UK cases over the weekend came as Scotland announced plans to test patients with flu-like symptoms for COVID-19.

The NHS in England confirmed last week that a network of 100 GP practices are carrying out surveillance testing - sending in samples from some patients with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus tests to help ensure that any spread of the infection is detected rapidly.

Surveillance

Health officials have confirmed a similar process will operate in Scotland, with 41 practices set to submit samples for testing. Patients admitted to critical care units with pneumonia will also be tested for coronavirus infection.

Scotland's CMO Dr Catherine Calderwood said: 'Early detection measures will be vital in helping to prevent the spread of the virus in the event of an outbreak.

'Hospitals and GP surgeries will now conduct tests on some patients with coughs, fevers or shortness of breath - regardless of whether they have travelled to a place where the virus is known to be spreading. Not everyone with flu will be tested, but this is a sensible step to take as a precautionary measure to give us an early warning of community transmission.'

Updated advice for GP practices published last week urged practices to display posters outside their premises to warn patients with potential coronavirus infection not to enter.

Practices have also been told to identify potential spaces within their practices to isolate any patients who do enter the premises with a potential coronavirus infection.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to chair a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee later today, with reported deaths from coronavirus worldwide now reported to be in excess of 3,000.

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