Coronavirus: Businessman at centre of UK outbreak thanks NHS

Steve Walsh contracted the virus after attending a conference in Singapore.

Press Association
Last updated: 11 February 2020 - 3.50pm

The businessman at the centre of a UK outbreak of coronavirus has thanked the NHS for his treatment and said he is “fully recovered”.

Steve Walsh, 53, from Hove in East Sussex, who is still in quarantine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, picked up coronavirus while at a conference in Singapore.

On his way back to the UK, he stopped off for several days at a French ski chalet, where five Britons were subsequently infected with the virus.

He is also linked to at least five further cases of coronavirus in the UK, including two doctors, one of whom worked at a Brighton surgery that has closed its doors.

Mr Walsh is also linked to one male patient taken ill in Majorca.

Speaking from hospital, Mr Walsh, a cub scout leader, said in a statement: “I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care – whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus.

“As soon as I knew I had been exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus, I contacted my GP, NHS 111 and Public Health England.

“I was advised to attend an isolated room at hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed.

“When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves.

Steve Walsh, the businessman linked to several cases of coronavirus in the UK (FTI Consulting/PA)

“I also thank friends, family and colleagues for their support during recent weeks and I ask the media to respect our privacy.”

Gas analysis firm Servomex, where Mr Walsh is employed, said it was “very pleased that Steve Walsh has made a full recovery”.

A spokeswoman for the Scout Association said Mr Walsh had not been to any Scout meetings since his return to the UK, and wished him a quick recovery.

It comes as the World Health Organisation announced a name for the new coronavirus – Covid-19.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference a name was decided that “did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease”.

He said: “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising.

“It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

Also on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs in the Commons that new funding was being launched immediately “to support any urgent works the NHS needs for the coronavirus response, such as the creation of further isolation areas and other necessary facilities.”

He added: “As I said last week, dealing with this disease is a marathon not a sprint.

Coronavirus: how virus spread via businessman
(PA Graphics)

“The situation will get worse before it gets better. We will be guided by the science.

“Be in no doubt, we will do everything that is effective to tackle this virus and keep people safe.”

Earlier, Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England (PHE), said “contact tracing” run by PHE was “working very well”.

He added: “I should say that the people who are of concern are those who have had very close contact with somebody with coronavirus – face-to-face contact or within a two-metre range for 15 minutes or more.”

Prof Cosford said PHE was working to trace the small number of contacts of the two doctors – including a Brighton GP – who were among the four new cases announced on Monday.

He added: “There is not a general risk to any patient of the NHS in that area. We will be – and have already been – identifying the people who have been in particularly close contact.”

Cleaning equipment arrives at the County Oak Medical centre in Brighton (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In Brighton, Patcham Nursing Home said on Tuesday that it has “closed to all visitors” after one of the infected GPs visited a patient there about a week ago.

A spokeswoman for the care home said: “It is important to state that no-one at the home is unwell.

“However, following the closure of the local GP surgery, as a precaution we have closed the home to all visitors.

“As a responsible care home and employer, we have put in place our own checks on residents and staff and Public Health England has confirmed it is happy with our actions.”

The County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton also remained closed after it emerged one of the doctors working there had contracted the virus.

A source told the PA news agency that the doctor – acting as a locum – had only carried out one day of admin work there recently and had not had any direct contact with patients.

A second branch of the surgery is also closed.

Meanwhile, pupils at Cottesmore St Mary’s Catholic and Bevendean Primary School in Brighton were told they could stay at home after a couple of teachers feared the had come into contact with the virus.

A statement on the Bevendean Primary School website said: “We have just been made aware that a member of our staff has been in close contact with someone who has been advised by Public Health England to self-isolate as they have been in direct contact with the coronavirus.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

“We are currently in communication with the local authority and Public Health England for further advice and information however we feel that it is our duty to make you aware of what is happening.

“The school will remain open until further notice, however if you wish to keep your child off of school at this time, then we will authorise this absence.”

It is also understood two prisoners at HMP Bullingdon are being tested for coronavirus.

The pair are being held in isolation away from the rest of the inmates and access to the prison wing in question is being restricted, sources told PA.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 1,358 people have been tested for coronavirus, of which 1,350 were confirmed negative and eight positive, the Department of Health said.

Earlier, Dr Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, issued a statement on Twitter.

He said that, with 99% of coronavirus cases in China, “this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world”.

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