The Department of Health says it will only comment on confirmed coronavirus cases after rumours spread on social media of Watford General Hospital staff wearing protective suits.

Social media reports are circulating suggesting that several staff were dressed in protective clothing around the A&E department of the Vicarage Road hospital on Sunday.

This led to speculation that patients are being tested for coronavirus.

And one patient who was at Watford General Hospital on Monday told a source they saw around three staff in protective suits in the hospital while waiting for an appointment.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust would not comment on whether anyone has been tested for coronavirus in the hospital.

Watford Observer:

It is understood staff will dress in protective suits for precautionary measures – and not just for coronavirus.

The Department of Health and Social Care also declined to comment on the reports - a spokesperson said it would only comment on confirmed cases.

The department would not confirm whether anyone has been tested positive for coronavirus at Watford General, or if anyone has been tested for it at all.

The disease, known as the novel coronavirus, was first identified in Wuhan City in China.

Coronavirus is a term for a range of illnesses that usually cause mild to moderate respiratory tract illnesses such as the common cold.

Watford Observer:

Sign for the Coronavirus Priority Assessment Pod at Watford General Hospital. Photo: Jaffer Bhimji 

There have been more than 42,000 cases of the new strain in China so far, with 1,017 deaths.

The death rate of around 2.4 per cent is similar to some strains of flu, and it seems to be serious in people with underlying health conditions.

Each day at 2pm the Department of Health is posting updates on its twitter page as to how many people have been tested for coronavirus, as well as the number of people tested positive so far.

The total number of people infected in the UK is eight – from 1,358 tests conducted.

Five of the UK cases are linked to one man, who caught the virus in Singapore and is thought to have infected 11 others at a French ski resort.

He lives in Hove in East Sussex, and two of the new cases are understood to be GPs, one of whom works at a medical centre in nearby Brighton.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK nationals to leave China where possible.

British Airways recently said that following the outbreak it has grounded planes flying into China until April.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty said: “Four further patients in England have tested positive for novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight.

“The new cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France.

“Experts at Public Health England continue to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases. They successfully identified these individuals and ensured the appropriate support was provided.

“The patients have been transferred to specialist NHS centres at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and The Royal Free hospitals, and we are now using robust infection control measures to prevent further spread of the virus. The NHS is extremely well prepared to manage these cases and treat them, and we are working quickly to identify any further contacts these patients have had.”

A statement on the West Herts Hospitals Trust website said: "The NHS in England and Public Health England (PHE) are extremely well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal.

"The risk to the general public is moderate. If you have arrived back to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau within 14 days, follow the specific advice for returning travellers.

"Anyone who has travelled to China or places listed above in the last 14 days and develops symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, should immediately stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu or call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country."

Information for the public is available at