- The first coronavirus patient in London travelled in an Uber to turn up unannounced at A&E department of a hospital.
- She did not come into contact with other patients and two staff members have been asked to stay home for a period of 14 days, according to The Guardian.
- Uber told Business Insider that the account of the driver who transported the woman was “temporarily suspended.”
- It’s unlikely the driver could get the virus, but said the woman’s actions went against advice by not calling an ambulance or using a private vehicle.
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The unidentified patient, a woman who recently arrived from China, had “self-presented” herself to the A&E department at Lewisham hospital in the southeast of the city on Sunday, February 9, after falling ill.
A public health body said the chances the Uber driver could have got the virus are low, and all staff who came into contact with the patient have been traced, with two members being sent home to be in isolation for a 14-day period.
But the hospital confirmed in an email published by The Guardian that the woman ignored public health officials’ advice by not arriving in an ambulance or in her own private vehicle. She also did not call the NHS 111 advice service, which has been recommended to those who think they are developing symptoms of the virus.
The woman was sent home pending the results of her test before being taken to another hospital in London, St Thomas’, for treatment on Wednesday, Sky News reported. The woman is the first recorded case of coronavirus in London.
Ben Travis, the chief executive of branch of the National Health Service (NHS) trust that covers Lewisham, described what happened to the patient in a message to staff published by The Guardian.
“In this case, the patient self-presented at our A&E. As soon as the patient did this, the patient was given a mask and then escorted to be tested in the dedicated area we have assigned for coronavirus testing outside the A&E building – while awaiting the installation of a purpose-built ‘pod’.
“As further assessment was required, the patient was then taken to a dedicated isolation room in the emergency department. In line with our protocols, throughout their care the patient was escorted and did not come into contact with other patients. The patient was later discharged and taken home by London ambulance service.”
Uber said it “temporarily suspended” the account of the driver who transported the individual to the hospital.
An Uber spokesperson told Business Insider: “We received a request from Public Health England for information about a passenger who has now been confirmed as having coronavirus.
“We have dedicated an online portal for public health authorities to contact Uber for information about riders and drivers, and we will take action on any user accounts on the recommendation of those authorities.”
Public Health England, the national body that sets healthcare policy in the UK, said that the Uber driver had little chance of contracting the infection because he was not with the woman long enough, according to The Guardian. The journey was less than 15 minutes.
But healthcare professionals are still critical of the move as one that does not follow advice.
The chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s Emergency Care Association, Dave Smith, told The Guardian: “It’s worrying to hear that the public isn’t following Public Health England advice about phoning NHS 111 to seek advice, and therefore putting other members of the public and NHS staff at risk of contracting coronavirus.”
For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, you can follow Business Insider’s updates here.
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