First Covid-19 cases 'interrupted doctor's leaving do'

A patient being wheeled through a hospital corridor Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Doctors Anda Samson, Patrick Lillie and Nick Easom spoke about receiving the first patients on 29 January

A team of doctors were meant to be celebrating a colleague's retirement when they were asked to treat the UK's first coronavirus patients.

The infectious diseases consultants "didn't really think much of it" when they were asked to treat the pair, from China, who fell ill in York.

They said they did not expect the patients to test positive for Covid-19.

The team, from Hull, had "very little understanding" about what they were dealing with at the end of January.

Before assessing the patients, on 29 January, Dr Nick Easom had to send a colleague to buy him an electric razor to remove his beard so his personal protective equipment (PPE) would fit properly.

He said: "At this stage, there were less than 10,000 reported cases of coronavirus in the world.

"So we had very little understanding what this was, how infectious it was, what the spectrum of the disease was and what we were dealing with."

The two patients, who are from the same family, fell ill at a hotel in York.

Dr Anda Samson said: "We had received a phone call in the afternoon from a GP in York saying they had some people who had arrived from China and they were showing symptoms that might be consistent with coronavirus.

"We'd had a couple of warnings beforehand so we didn't really think much of it but we said, 'OK, let them come'."

Image caption The two people with coronavirus stayed at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York

The two Chinese nationals - one a student at the University of York - were taken to Castle Hill Hospital in Hull for treatment.

Dr Patrick Lillie added: "The next day, we'd done all the in-house tests, which were all negative, but we still weren't anticipating what was to come. We'd seen the patients, they were fine."

The unnamed pair then tested positive for coronavirus and were transferred to Newcastle.

The doctors told Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust's annual general meeting how they used their experience to deal with the subsequent surge in cases and to help with research into coronavirus.

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