A SMALL number of people have been tested for Coronavirus in Cumbria.

The revelation came on the same day unconfirmed reports emerged one person has self-quarantined in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Health officials stressed none of the tests were confirmed positive but urged vigilance as cases of the illness continue to rise at an alarming rate. The number of people tested and the location of them has not been revealed.

Colin Cox, the director of public health for Cumbria, said he did not know where in Cumbria the tests had taken place.

He said ‘if there are any positive results this will be public information.’

In the south of Cumbria hospitals have already confirmed that pop-up isolation pods have been installed, in preparation for any cases.

The situation at the north Cumbria hospitals is as yet unknown.

Cllr Deborah Earl, cabinet member for public health and community services, confirmed a number of people in Cumbria suspected to have contracted the disease have been examined.

Speaking at a meeting of the county council, she assured members there were ‘robust plans’ in place to make sure the authorities ‘respond appropriately’.

But the meeting also heard the virus’ long incubation period – now estimated at 24 days – coupled with indications that it can be passed on by people who don’t show any symptoms – make it a ‘challenging outbreak to contain.’

Cllr Earl warned it was impossible to be sure of how the outbreak will develop and how serious a threat to public health it will become.

“It seems likely that responding to it will put considerable strain on an already stretched health service but unlikely that it will turn into something of the scale of a flu pandemic,” she said.

Geoff Jolliffe, clinical chair at Morecambe Bay Clinical Care Commissioning Group, said: “A lot of the evidence suggests the risk levels with coronavirus at the moment are lower than they would be with most flu epidemics.

“If a more serious strain of the virus does arrive to the country en masse, then there are the appropriate measures in place to deal with it.

“If someone comes back from one of the affected countries like China and is showing any Coronavirus symptoms, such as breathlessness, they should ring NHS 111 and follow the advice given.

“What they shouldn’t do is pitch up to hospitals or GP surgeries thinking they might have the virus, as this may spread it.”

There were fears that somebody in the Wigton area had contracted the disease after they attended a GP practice. That case is understood to have tested negative.

Barrow Mayor Kevin Hamilton praised Cumbrians for their ‘proactive’ approach thus far.

He said: “Of course if anyone has or suspects they have come into contact with the virus, they should go and get tested right away. But people seem to be taking a proactive approach to this, rather than a reactive one, which is positive.”

County councillor Graham Roberts told the council hand gel dispensers should be installed in public buildings to help safeguard people from the killer epidemic.

Over 1,300 people in the UK have been tested for Coronavirus, with only nine of these positive. Though Cllr Earl said this figure would “undoubtedly rise”.

Professor John Ashton, a former director of Public Health in Cumbria, said: “In these circumstances, it’s really important that the Directors of Public Health be transparent about the provision of information to prevent the spread of rumour and to ensure the public is properly informed about the disease.

Andrew Furber, centre director at Public Health England, said: “Directors of Public Health at local authorities are essential in our strategy to protect the public from the Coronavirus outbreak. They coordinate local action and provide important advice and guidance to the public.”