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UK virus 'super-spreader' says he has recovered

  • Dmitry Zaks

    Agence France-Presse

London, United Kingdom   /   Wed, February 12, 2020   /   05:05 am
UK virus 'super-spreader' says he has recovered The Royal Free NHS hospital is pictured in London on February 10, 2020, where some of the UK nationals that have been confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV strain of the novel coronavirus have been taken. The British government on Monday warned the outbreak of novel coronavirus was a (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

A British businessman who became known as a "super-spreader" of the COVID-19 coronavirus said Tuesday he had fully recovered but remained in isolation in a central London hospital.

Steve Walsh issued a statement via his company from Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital after catching the virus on a business trip in Singapore.

He is believed to have infected at least 11 other Britons -- five in a ski chalet in the French Alps and another five who have since returned to his home city of Brighton on England's southeast coast.

Another person was diagnosed while on vacation in Spain.

Walsh said he contacted Britain's state-run national health service once he realised he might be sick.

"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," the 53-year-old said.

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

"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."

Walsh represented his Servomex natural gas analytics company at the Grand Hyatt Singapore sales conference on January 20-22.

A firm that conducts Servomex's consulting work described Steve as a genial boyscout leader who has two children and travels abroad frequently for work.

Servomex is a division of the London Stock Exchange-listed Spectris high-tech instruments and software provider.

 Contact tracing 

UK health authorities have so far tested 1,358 people and recorded eight cases inside the country.

The media's focus on the "super-spreader" from Brighton intensified after one of the medical centres in the coastal city temporarily closed because two of its staff also became infected.

A second branch of the same medical centre suspended operations on Tuesday.

Walsh travelled to the French Alps before returning to London from Geneva on an EasyJet flight carrying more than 100 people.

His associates said Walsh went to his local pub in Brighton and attended a group yoga session at his church after returning from his trip.

He put himself in "self-isolation" after one of his colleagues abroad fell ill.

A Servomex spokesman said the company remained opened and was working with "authorities to ensure the welfare of our staff".

Health officials in Brighton are currently trying to trace patients of the two healthcare workers diagnosed with the virus strain.

UK health authorities have tried hard to calm any fears sparked by a barrage of media stories about a "super-spreader" infecting the public without anyone's knowledge.

"Contact tracing of the first four cases has been undertaken rapidly and is now complete while tracing for the latest four cases is ongoing," health minister Matt Hancock told parliament.

Hancock revealed that UK health authorities' work helped to find the five Britons who are still isolated in France.

"They are now receiving treatment and the Foreign Office is following up with consular support," Hancock said.

But some medical researchers said Walsh's case pointed to a bigger problem: the possibility that the virus can spread from someone who exhibits no symptoms.

The episode "may support that the virus can be shed from individuals prior to the onset of symptoms, which we are hearing more and more anecdotally," said University of Leeds virus researcher Stephen Griffin.

"This would make the problem of containing spread more like controlling a flu outbreak rather than what was experienced with SARS," Griffin said.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was another coronavirus that originated in China and killed 774 worldwide in 2002-03.