Breaking News: Older patient becomes first virus fatality in UK

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(BBC) – A patient with underlying health conditions has become the first person in the UK to die after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said they were an “older patient” who had been “in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons”.

The patient “was admitted and last night tested positive for coronavirus”.

It comes as the number of UK people diagnosed with the virus reached 116, a rise of more than 30 since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s official spokesman said it was “highly likely the virus is going to spread in a significant way”.

The patient, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, is believed to have caught the virus in the UK, said the country’s chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty.

The patient is not believed to have been abroad recently, BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle added.

Officials are now trying to trace the people they were in contact with.

“I am very sorry to report a patient in England who tested positive for Covid-19 has sadly died,” said Prof Whitty.

“I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their request for privacy is respected.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “his sympathies are with victim and their family” but the UK was “still in the contain phase” – the first stage of the government’s response to the outbreak.

He said scientists and medical staff are making preparations for the next “delay” phase, and reiterated the advice to wash hands.

According to the latest government figures released on Thursday, as of 9:00 GMT on Thursday there were 115 cases across the UK. Another case was later confirmed in Wales.

The UK cases include 105 patients in England as well as six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.

Around 45 of the confirmed cases have been self-isolating at home.

There are currently 10 cases where the authorities do not know how the individual was infected, said our health correspondent. They have no links with foreign travel, he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the PM’s official spokesman said officials were accelerating work to prepare for the next phase of the government’s response to the outbreak – called the “delay” phase.

The government is still deciding what measures will be taken in the delay phase, but has previously said they could include banning big events, closing schools, encouraging people to work from home and discouraging the use of public transport.

Meanwhile, the whole of Italy is now classed as a recognised area of concern, meaning if people develop symptoms after returning from the country they should self-isolate.

For those returning from the quarantined towns in Italy, people should self-isolate even if they do not show symptoms.

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