James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Government books out Heathrow Hotel as coronavirus quarantine venue
17 February 2020, 23:29
The Government has block-booked a Holiday Inn to use as a quarantine venue as part of measures to control the spread of coronavirus in the UK.
The Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel could be used to house anyone arriving into the UK who is thought to be at risk of potentially spreading the Covid-19 virus, but who has nowhere else to go to self-isolate.
This could include people arriving from some parts of Asia, including China.
People will also be able to stay at the hotel while their coronavirus tests are carried out and the results are processed.
Anyone with the virus who needs treatment will still be sent to a specialist infectious disease centre run by NHS hospitals.
Guests booked to stay at the Heathrow Ariel hotel on Bath Road have been transferred to sister hotels.
The news comes as it was announced that more than 70 Britons stranded on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship could be flown home.
Downing Street confirmed that those on board the Diamond Princess, which is docked in Yokohama, off the coast of Japan, were being contacted about the possibility of a repatriation flight.
It comes after pressure mounted on the Foreign Office to evacuate British nationals from the ship.
On Sunday, the US charted two planes and flew home 340 of its citizens while other countries, including Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, have said they are organising flights to remove people from the ship.
On Monday, the Japanese Health Ministry confirmed 99 more people on board have been diagnosed with coronavirus illness, also known as Covid-19, bringing the total to 454.
There are 74 Britons on the Diamond Princess, of which 22 are crew members.
Four Britons with confirmed coronavirus are currently in hospital in Japan, according to the latest official figures.
A Number 10 spokesman said: "We sympathise with all those caught up in this extremely difficult situation.
"The Foreign Office is in contact with all British people on the Diamond Princess, including to establish interest in a possible repatriation flight.
"We are urgently considering all options to guarantee the health and safety of those on board."
Earlier, health officials told schools they do not need to close or send staff and pupils home if there is a suspected case of coronavirus.
Public Health England (PHE) will publish guidance saying that no restrictions or special control measures are needed while tests for Covid-19 are carried out on a suspected case.
While a pupil or staff member suspected of coming into contact with the virus is being tested, the guidance says no action is needed.
If a case of the virus is confirmed, then health protection teams would trace those at risk.
The new guidance comes the week after at least seven schools in Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne messaged parents saying that they would authorise absences for families wishing to self-isolate.
Nine people in the UK have tested positive for Covid-19, with eight of those patients now discharged from hospital.
Meanwhile, the death toll in mainland China rose by 105 to 1,770, in figures announced early on Monday morning.
The number of people infected globally stands at 68,500, according to the country's National Health Commission.