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Suffolk MP's role in working with government to keep coronavirus out of Britain

PUBLISHED: 12:49 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:20 22 January 2020

Dr Dan Poulter has sent the letter with Dr Coffey and Mr Aldous. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Dr Dan Poulter has sent the letter with Dr Coffey and Mr Aldous. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter has been re-elected to a key role in parliament which puts him at the heart of the battle to keep the new coronavirus illness out of the country.

The Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market which is believed to be the source of the new virus. Picture: AP Photo/Dake KangThe Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market which is believed to be the source of the new virus. Picture: AP Photo/Dake Kang

There is growing concern about the spread of the new virus since it was first identified in China at Christmas.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Poulter has been re-elected as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health which works with the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Department for Health.

He said his group of parliamentarians, which includes the former chief executive of the NHS Lord Nigel Crisp, would be working with the government and studying what is put in place to contain the outbreak.

This strain of coronavirus appears to have started in a live animal market in the city of Wuhan in eastern China. Now travellers from that part of the country will be separated from other passengers on arrival at Heathrow Airport as UK health chiefs step up their response.

People in Wuhan are wearing masks to protect them from the virus. Picture: Chinatopix via APPeople in Wuhan are wearing masks to protect them from the virus. Picture: Chinatopix via AP

Nine people have died and hundreds of others have been infected, with cases detected in countries including the US, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in response to the virus. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said Public Health England is putting in place new precautions in relation to travellers to the UK from the region.

Dr Poulter said: "We are still learning about this virus, but it seems that it started in animals but is now being passed from person to person. It may be transmitted through air which could be a concern."

But initial reports were that its effects are not as serious as some other recent illnesses. Dr Poulter said: "There are clearly concerns for people in vulnerable groups and it needs to be contained. However early results seem to suggest the effects of this virus are not as serious as some others we have seen in recent years. It does need to be carefully monitored though."

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Mr Shapps said: "There have been some announcements this morning about flights that come direct from the affected region to Heathrow with some additional measures there.

"At the moment Public Health England have moved this from 'very low' to 'low' but obviously we want to stay ahead of the issue so we are keeping a very close eye on it.

"Initially this is to ensure that when flights come in directly into Heathrow there is a separate area for people to arrive in."

The Foreign Office has updated its advice for Britons travelling to China, warning the virus had spread to other areas outside the Hubei province.

The illness comes from a new coronavirus, not been previously identified in humans, that Chinese health officials said had spread from human to human and may be mutating.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory

Syndrome (Sars).

Dr Poulter said his committee looked at ways of working with government departments to improve global nursing - and to track diseases that could move around the world including things like Sars, Ebola and the Zika virus.

He added: "It is a great honour to have been re-elected as Co-Chair of the APPG on Global Health alongside Lord Crisp. As a Group, we work hard to raise awareness of the physical and mental health challenges that we face here in the UK and overseas.

"I am looking forward to continuing to draw upon my experience as a practising NHS doctor to build upon this influential Group's achievements, as well as working to improve healthcare for the benefit of patients here in the UK and further afield."

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