The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has jumped to 87, the Department for Health confirmed on Wednesday.
The number increased by 36, the biggest rise in a single day since the coronavirus was first reported in Britain.
It means the UK has become the fifth most affected country in Europe.
“As of 9am this morning, 32 further patients in England have tested positive for Covid-19,” chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty said, using the official name for the virus. Two more patients have been confirmed in Scotland and two more have been confirmed in Northern Ireland.
UPDATE on coronavirus (#COVID19) testing in the UK:
As of 9am 4 March 2020, a total of 16,659 people have been tested:
For latest information visit:
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) March 4, 2020
Whitty said: “Twenty-nine had recently travelled from recognised countries or from recognised clusters which were under investigation.”
“Three additional patients contracted the virus in the UK and 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.”
Sick pay announcement
Boris Johnson has announced that statutory sick pay will be available earlier to workers who have to stay at home with potential infections. The payment period will start from the first day of illness rather than the fourth, he said.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Johnson said individuals who self-isolate are “helping to protect all of us by slowing the spread of the virus”.
“If they stay at home and if we ask people to self-isolate they may lose out financially,” he told the House of Commons.
Universities hold off on graduation ceremonies
Some universities have postponed graduation ceremonies because of coronavirus.
Buckingham University and the University of London have both called off ceremonies this month to stop any potential spread of the virus.
The University of London had expected up to 4,000 people from more than 100 countries to attend its March 3 ceremony at the Barbican Centre.
How is it spread and how can you protect yourself?
The virus is believed to spread through cough and sneeze droplets, experts say.
It can live on surfaces for several hours but it is not clear how long it survives.
Government scientists say it can be spread by people who may show no symptoms.
Washing hands regularly with soap and hot water for 20-second periods is recommended to avoid catching the virus.
The NHS says workers should wash their hands when they get home or arrive at their job, and hand sanitiser can be used if soap is not available.
Sneezes and coughs should be caught in a tissue, which should then be binned and followed by a hand wash.
Members of the public should avoid close contact with unwell people and avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
It is fine to be in public places and the government has not advised that mass events or public gatherings should be cancelled.
People should only self-isolate if told to by the NHS’s 111 service or a health professional.