Action demanded over coronavirus 'crisis' amid concerns for Durham's 6,000 Chinese students

County chiefs have demanded government action over the Coronavirus ‘crisis’.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 4:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 8:36 am
Picture c/o Pixabay

At least 81 people have been killed in the outbreak so far, according to Chinese officials, with cases of the disease confirmed elsewhere, including Thailand, the USA and Australia.

And although no patients have yet been confirmed in the UK it has prompted questions over measures in County Durham to react to any potential spread.

“I am concerned about the lack of any communication to councillors and staff about what should be done given the unfolding crisis in China with Coronavirus,” said Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Mark Wilkes.

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“We have over 6,000 Chinese students in Durham City and thousands of members of staff coming in and out of our public buildings every day.

“We don’t even have hand washing gel in County Hall and there has been no email out to staff about what to do if they feel ill.”

Coun Wilkes was speaking at a meeting of Durham County Council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, where he raised the issue as an urgent item on the agenda following concerns raised in the media over the weekend.

He added he was not only criticising the county council and also slammed the government for so far failing to provide proper advice for local authorities to pass on to staff and the public.

British ministers have also faced anger for not evacuating citizens from China’s Hubei Province, the worst hit area, despite the USA, France and Japan all working on airlift plans.

“We’ve had no guidance, which I assume would come from NHS England, and we need to find out where that information would originate from,” said Coun Rob Crute, the committee’s chairman.

“It’s not just about Coronavirus, it’s also about other flu outbreaks, it’s linked to absenteeism, how do we limit cold and flu on a normal basis?

“If you go to a hospital you cannot even get on to a ward without washing your hands.”

Advice from the World Health Organisation regarding Coronavirus focuses on its ‘standard recommendations’ of washing hands, using disinfectants and covering mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing.