Coronavirus-infected woman took Uber to London hospital, breached health advice

The first person in London to be tested positive for the deadly coronavirus reportedly turned up at hospital in an Uber and breached health advice when she arrived.

The Guardian has been told the woman, understood to be a Chinese national who recently arrived in the United Kingdom from China, didn't arrive at the Lewisham hospital on Monday (NZT) by ambulance or private car, but in a vehicle arranged through the ride-sharing application. The woman then went straight to the A&E reception desk to report her symptoms.

After the woman was tested she was sent home. However, on Thursday, the test result was confirmed as positive and the woman was taken to St Thomas' hospital.

While officials believe no other patients were exposed to the virus when she presented herself with symptoms, they say directly going into the A&E and not meeting at an ambulance bay with trained doctors and nurses in hazmat suits breached health advice. It is possible some staff the woman came across could have been infected. 

"All staff who had direct contact with the patient have been contacted, including two members of staff who are undergoing active surveillance at home for a 14-day period as a precautionary measure," said Ben Travis, Lewisham hospital's boss.

The Guardian reports that some staff at the hospital are concerned the Uber driver may have been infected as well as other people who later used the car. There are three ways to catch the virus: Through human-to-human transmission, breathing in air close to an infected patient, or breathing in infected aerosols that can stay in the air for an extended period of time.

Sky News received a statement from Uber, which says the ride-sharing company had suspended the driver "out of an abundance of caution".

"We have a dedicated 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," Uber said.

There are nine people in the United Kingdom being treated for the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. They are among the 60,000 worldwide infected with the illness. More than 1300 people have died since early January.