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“Quarantined” China-flight passengers mingle, even go outside as govt ignores warning coronavirus can spread before symptoms

‘Quarantined’ passenger says he and others can mingle freely and go outside – as DHSC admits it is telling patients to ‘self-isolate’
One of today’s front-page headlines about returning passengers arriving on Merseyside

Worried Wirral residents’ fears about the effectiveness of the quarantine of passengers brought back from the epicentre of the coronavirus are deepening after details of the passengers’ ‘isolation’ emerged on Radio 4 this morning – details confirmed to the SKWAWKBOX by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

As of this morning the virus had infected at least 12,000 people in China and had caused 259 deaths. The government has brought back UK citizens from Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, and has said they will be held in quarantine in Arrowe Park hospital in the Wirral area of Merseyside.

But while passenger Matt Raw told the BBC that he and his fellow passengers felt well looked-after, he also revealed that they are all allowed to mingle freely with anyone in the section of the hospital where they are held, as long as they wear a face mask, and that they can open their windows and even go outside.

However, as the ‘i‘ paper confirmed this week expert opinion is divided on the effectiveness of face masks in blocking the transmission of viruses, with the head of emerging diseases at Public Health England admitting that the benefits of wearing them are a ‘perception’ when not used by experts and any benefit required them to be worn correctly, changed regularly and disposed of carefully.

The i also pointed out that the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is unwilling to recommend such masks for preventing the spread of disease, saying that they “may not effectively limit transmission in the community”.

The DHSC press office confirmed that passengers are allowed to mingle and go outside – but went further, saying that it is leaving it up to them to isolate themselves:

The DHSC added that their Chief Medical Officer’s advice is that people infected with the coronavirus cannot pass on the disease until they manifest symptoms.

“There’s no doubt”

However, this advice directly contradicts the latest statement by the USA’s most senior infectious disease expert that studies show that “there’s no doubt” that those infected can pass on the disease before they have any symptoms:

The government has used reassuring language of ‘quarantine’ and ‘isolation’ to ease fears that the disease may spread from the passengers at Arrowe Park hospital.

However, the devil is in the detail. That detail, including the DHSC’s own comments, suggests that the ‘quarantine’ is hardly total and is based on assumptions that do not stand up to the latest information available, while using a barrier of questionable effectiveness and relying on the discretion of the passengers themselves, who are unlikely to have medical expertise.

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15 comments

  1. I would suggest inferring that there is any sort of risk to the general public from either opening a window or walking outside within a restricted area is stretching credibility beyond breaking point. Likewise I find it difficult to envisage what point would be served by restricting interaction between people who have just spent 24hrs together within the enclosed environment of a plane.

    1. I used to go to Japan regularly where people have always worn face masks when necessary. They explained it is not just to minimise breathing in harmful substances but also to contain the spread of disease when sneezing or coughing at which face masks are very effective.

      1. From what I have heard and read if masks are of the correct ‘grade’, worn correctly, changed frequently and correctly disposed of they are very effective at stopping the airborne spread of influenza and other respiratory infections. I wouldn’t envisage that any of the above would be an issue within the isolation facility being used.

      2. Agreed Steve but my point was that even the most rudimentary of masks can minimise the spread of disease from people coughing or sneezing.

      3. Jack T – We are in agreement on this, my intention was to further question the purpose and validity of the above article rather than to in any way detract from the very common sense point you are making.

  2. Death rate of 2019-nCoV appears to be about 1/45 of those infected so far – I like those odds even at my age.
    I’ve worn the kind of face masks you see on TV a lot – paper/fibre surgical type of various designs I used for dust, reusable rubber with disposable cartridges type for paint spraying until I got the air-fed full face mask.
    Surgical type are next to useless in protecting the wearer if they don’t contact the face properly all around the edge, which is almost impossible to achieve. They’re not very effective anyway – after a couple of hours use there’s always dust on the inside. They’re probably better at protecting others from a coughing, sneezing infected wearer.
    Poor hand hygiene and unsafe disposal of masks & paper handkerchiefs is a transmission route that shouldn’t be ignored.

    1. “I like those odds even at my age”

      Again – the problem is cutting through the ‘churnalism’ that loves a cataclysmic threat.

      The best information I’ve come across suggests that this isn’t a massively infectious virus, or one with a particularly deadly mortality rate – although, obviously of concern.

  3. Surely the best approach would be to stop anyone from flying out who has the virus and therefore risks infecting others either on the plane or at home. They may not show symptoms but a blood test at source will determine if the virus is present.

    Am I missing something?

  4. Anyone concerned about the quarantine facilities can have a look for themselves on this Channel4 News Video.

    1. The relevant section with an interview with one of the people quarantined starts at 04:30

  5. Face masks have already trebled in price here in Cambodia they have always been worn traditionally in large crowds of people’s.,but the availability is not a problem.The driving is far more lethal with the driving and unbelievable sights of brilliant improvision..Family 5 on a motor bike driving on the wrong side of the road…plus livestock carried by passangers,virtually unbelievably creative and leathel.Yet we are starting to see people panicking.when everyday life is a struggle for the locals.I suppose that people of my age have a more relaxed attitude to the inevitable and spending time in the departure lounge has become part of living and dying….I hope thats cheered up your sunday morning?Dont worry be happy ☺.

  6. I would physically visit Arrowe Park Hospital this morning to check out the security around the former staff accommodation block, but it seems staying put in Seacombe would be wiser.

    I’m also seriously doubting the wisdom of housing potentially infected people a few YARDS away from one of the largest acute hospitals on Merseyside…

    …where those who are ill and most vulnerable to infection are in / out-patients and in close proximity to scores of other vulnerable people.

    Who thought that one up?

    1. I would have thought Surrey would have been a good place to put those requiring quarantine facilities,handy for Gatwick airport and Heathrow.I wonder why Merseyside was chosen?

  7. ”Who thought that one up?”

    Indeed. No doubt they’re paid handsomely for making such decisions.

    On a similar note. Why were the bus drivers not given them forensic paper suits, like the ‘officials’ were?

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