London Underground a ‘hotbed’ for coronavirus as first case reported in British capital

Cathy Adams
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Doctors have warned that the London Underground could be a “hotbed” for coronavirus.

The deadly outbreak has so far killed more than 1,300 people and sickened tens of thousands more.

Yesterday, a London woman became the ninth person in the UK to test positive for the virus, officially known as Covid-19, raising fears that the capital’s transport system could be breeding ground for the disease.

The Tube, one of the world’s busiest transport metro systems, carries around five million people each day.

“In general, if an initial case is in a densely populated area, then the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission following is higher,” said Dr Robin Thompson of Oxford University.

“This is exacerbated by the fact that London is a transport hub, and the underground could provide a network to spread the virus quickly,” he added.

“As a result, given this case was in London, it might be expected that there is an increased risk posed by this case compared to the others we have seen.”

Dr Michael Head from the University of Southampton reminded people that of the 1,750 tests carried out so far in the UK, over 99 per cent of those tested had been negative.

He added: “Thus, risks to Londoners and UK residents remain low, though people should continue to keep an eye on guidance for the general public.”

Advice from the National Institute for Health Research says that London commuters should “go about their business as usual”.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott said: “Provided the individual followed the government’s advice (to self-isolate) there should be little concern of transmission to the general public in London.”

To lessen the chance of contracting coronavirus, guidance from the World Health Organisation advises people to frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap, cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing and avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.​

A Boots spokesperson added: “Antiviral hand foams and gel can also be useful when you are out and about.”

The Independent has asked Transport for London for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies

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