Coronavirus has not been out of the national headlines since it was discovered in China.

Understandably, many people are anxious about the disease and rumours are quick to start. So when staff at Watford General Hospital were seen wearing protective suits and face masks last Sunday and Monday, it was not long before reports spread on social media.

But when this paper tried to establish what had actually happened, it was impossible to get anything on the record.

The hospital trust's press office is under orders from the Department of Health not to release anything to do with coronavirus. The Department of Health said it would only comment on confirmed cases.

Reading between the lines, there was no case. But we, and our readers, should not have to read between the lines.

Meanwhile, the hospital trust press office sent several emails suggesting the wording we should use for protective suits.

If there was a test but it proved negative, or staff were wearing those suits for another reason, surely it would be easy to just say so. Especially to stop panic spreading on social media, well out of reach of press officers' control.

The story of how Chinese authorities initially tried to hush up coronavirus ­— possibly at the cost of an as yet unknown number of lives ­— is now notorious. We are not China, but people and the press need to be given correct information in a timely fashion so they can make the right decisions.