The UK is monitoring direct flights arriving from China as a precaution.
A total of 14 people have been tested in the UK for the deadly coronavirus, which has claimed 25 lives in China and the British government has admitted an “increased likelihood” of its spread to the country.
Public Health England, the executive arm of the government’s Department for Health, said on Thursday night that five people had tested negative for the virus and nine others await their results.
Downing Street said the tests were “purely precautionary”.
The virus originated in the Wuhan province of China last month and four of the five tested in Scotland are believed to be Chinese.
“The chief medical officer has revised the risk to the UK population from very low to low, and has concluded that while there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them,” UK health secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement to Parliament on Thursday.
“The public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well prepared for these type of outbreaks and we will remain vigilant and keep our response under constant review in light of emerging scientific evidence,” he said, adding that the UK was among the first countries to have devised a “world-leading” test for the new virus.
The UK is monitoring direct flights arriving from China as a precaution, as increased back and forth travel is expected around this time of the year for Chinese New Year this weekend. Passengers are being given leaflets and advice on what to do if they fall ill, and a health team is available at Heathrow Airport to check for symptoms.
The first human cases of the new strain of such a virus were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year. Authorities have said it originated in a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”. The market has been shut down since the beginning of the year.
The incubation period, or the time it takes for symptoms to appear after catching the infection, is within days. At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against it, but researchers are looking to develop one.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.