"Don't panic" message from Lancashire's health chiefs after first coronavirus cases are confirmed in South Ribble

"We're expecting more cases, but we're prepared".

That's the message from Lancashire's top Public Health doctor after the county's first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in South Ribble.

Advice is to call 111 if you suspect you may be unwell with coronavirus

Advice is to call 111 if you suspect you may be unwell with coronavirus

Health authorities have said the two cases are linked, that the people had recently travelled to Italy and are now isolating themselves at home.

But they said they were unable to give any further information on how the people are linked, their ages or location. All that is known is that their illnesses are not serious enough to require hospital treatment.

Lancashire County Council (LCC) - which is co-ordinating the public health response - also said it was unable to give information on whether the people were mixing in public after returning from Italy, though it is known that “close contacts” of the people are being traced in a bid to stop the virus spreading further.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We’re working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure residents are protected. Their close contacts are being followed up by Public Health England.

Lancashire County Councils Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi

Lancashire County Councils Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi

“If you haven’t been contacted by Public Health England you don’t need to do anything.”

Lancashire County Council’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: "We are expecting more cases from today, but we're prepared."

He added: "We knew this was an unfolding situation and have been preparing for the last few weeks. We have a multi-agency response that has been triggered and that is working as we expect it to at the moment.

"People in South Ribble and Lancashire should be alert and prepared, but there is no need to panic. We are very well prepared."

He added: “Good hygiene is the best prevention and there are some simple steps you can take to protect you and your family by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, and if you cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.

“If you have recently been to one of the affected countries and are feeling unwell, you should phone the NHS’s 111 helpline for further advice straight away – please don’t go to your doctor. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.”

If a person tests positive for coronavirus, Public Health England speaks to the patient to identify anyone who has had close contact with them during the time they are considered to be infectious and go “all out” to find these people as soon as possible.

Once they have contacted them, Public Health England can then give them the advice they need. If they are in groups considered to be a higher risk, they are follow up with daily to see how they are. If they become unwell, health officials are then able to assess them quickly and take appropriate action.