THE UK's first confirmed patients diagnosed with coronavirus had travelled into the country from China before being taken ill, health bosses confirm.

Two people from the same family are currently being treated by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at its Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centre.

It is now known that the two coronavirus patients had been staying at a hotel in York City Centre, before they became unwell and were taken to hospital.

Public Health England, who are now in the process of contacting people who may have had close contact with the patients, said they did not yet have "any idea" of the amount of people involved.

Yesterday, The Northern Echo's sister paper The York Press revealed hotel rooms at the StayCity hotel near Paragon Street in the city centre had been cordoned off.

A spokesperson for the hotel group confirmed that a man, believed to be a Chinese national, had been taken ill and was understood to be undergoing tests at a local hospital.

Witnesses at the scene said they saw paramedics in white quarantine suits with a box on the back, while a man was seen with a mask.

A woman from York said: "I was just driving past the Staycity hotel and I saw I was coming up to flashing blue lights.

"When I got closer I saw a guy with a mask on and then two figures - I guess paramedics - in the back of the ambulance with him.

"They were in white quarantine suits with a box on the back. 

"I was just taken aback. I've never seen anything like that. When it comes so close to home, that's when it gets a bit scary. 

"It is scary when you think about it."

As a result of the incident, a spokeswoman for the hotel confirmed that the belongings and apartment, which contained the man and 'two' companions had been cordoned off, along with surrounding rooms to undergo a thorough environmental clean.

'We're aiming to contact everybody who has been in contact with two cases'

Professor Sharon Peacock, the director for national infection service at Public Health England said: "We were able to stand up an outbreak investigation team immediately and that team is working now, and what they'll be doing is aiming to contact everybody who has been in contact with these two cases and prevent onward transmission.

"Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases. The two cases were staying in York when they became unwell.

"Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.

"This tried-and-tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public."

'Patients receiving specialist care'

In a statement published earlier today, chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: "The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

"The NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections, and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

"We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.

"We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities."