An East Sussex family suggested that they be the first coronavirus cases in Britain, claiming to have caught the virus in January after a visit to an Austrian ski resort, which is now under investigation for an alleged unreported case.
Daren Bland, a 50-year-old IT consultant, traveled to Ischgl, Austria on January 15 with three friends, Danes and Americans, and said he was ill when he returned to the UK with coronavirus-like symptoms.
He added that he passed the infection on to his wife and children, with his daughter developing a persistent temperature and cough during his illness.
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If confirmed, the cases would show that Covid-19’s broadcast in the UK occurred more than a month before the first case reported on February 28th.
The first recorded cases of the United Kingdom on January 31 were two Chinese citizens who had contracted the virus abroad.
The Austrian authorities have launched an investigation into the ski resort of Ischgl on charges of not reporting a coronavirus case when a worker fell ill in February.
The resort has been linked to hundreds of cases across Europe after visitors from Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Austria tested positive for Covid-19 following city trips.
However, reports of the worker who is ill have not yet been officially confirmed and positive tests are said to have been in early March – too early to have caused Mr. Bland’s infection.
At the moment it is not clear what the disease of the Bland family is, mainly because the symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to the symptoms of the flu.
Bland said The Telegraph visited the lively Kitzloch bar in Ischgl, where customers are said to play playing beer pong – sometimes taking turns to spit the same ping-pong ball into a glass of beer.
“People were hot and sweaty from skiing and the waiters were delivering shots to the tables by the hundreds,” he told the newspaper.
“You couldn’t have a better home for a virus.”
Mr. Bland claimed to have suffered from fatigue and was out of breath during his 10-day illness.
His wife, Sarah, said The Telegraph she had a temperature, fatigue and “strange flushes”, while her daughter had a “persistent temperature and cough” – symptoms that have been identified by the British government as potentially related to coronavirus.
If it were confirmed that Mr Bland had fallen ill with Covid-19, this would demonstrate that the virus was circulating in the ski area earlier than previously thought and represented a new challenge for the authorities trying to trace cases.
On Wednesday, senior UK health officials said they were in the process of verifying the accuracy of coronavirus antibody test kits, which could be used to prove whether a person had the virus.
The tests are designed to detect Covid-19 antibodies in a person’s blood produced by the immune system to fight the virus and indicate that the person has developed some immunity to the disease.
The kits will not show if anyone is currently infected with the virus.
This would be an important development in the government’s response to the pandemic because it would allow authorities to better understand how far the virus has already spread and potentially how early it got to the UK.
However, it is unlikely that the Bland family will be able to be tested quickly, as frontline National Health Service workers will have priority for kits so that they can get back to work as soon as possible.