The coronavirus patient in London showed up at the hospital in an Uber, and health officials say it's a sign people aren't following advice to contain the virus

AP Images / Kin Cheung

  • The first coronavirus patient in London travelled in an Uber to turn up unannounced at the emergency department of a hospital.

  • She did not come into contact with other patients, and two staff members have been asked to stay home for 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.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The first person confirmed to have the deadly coronavirus in London turned up unannounced at a hospital after taking an Uber there, health officials confirmed to The Guardian.

The unidentified patient, a woman who recently arrived from China, had "self-presented" herself to the Accident and Emergency department at University Hospital Lewisham in the southeast of the city on Sunday 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 14 days.

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 National Health Service's (NHS) 111 advice service, which has been recommended to those who think they are developing symptoms of the virus.

Lewisham Hospital London
Lewisham University Hospital.


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 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.

wuhan coronavirus masks
Customers wearing face masks shop inside a supermarket following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan.

China Daily via REUTERS

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 country, 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."

A total of nine people in the UK are now being treated for COVID-19. Two inmates at a prison in Oxfordshire, England, were tested for the Wuhan coronavirus on Tuesday.

For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, you can follow Business Insider's updates here.

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