Britain will now face a battle to contain a coronavirus outbreak every winter, the UK’s top scientist has warned.
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the Government’s tactic to allow the population to gradually develop “herd immunity” would mean 60% getting Covid-19.
It would mean allowing 40 million Brits to contract the deadly bug that he believes will be a seasonal virus permanently resident in the UK.
Given the estimated 1% mortality rate this would result in 400,000 deaths.
It comes after the Government has faced criticism for not going as far as other developed nations in banning public gatherings, closing schools and isolating older people.
The World Health Organisation today declared Europe the new epicentre of coronavirus.
Sir Patrick said “What we don’t want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services – that’s the flattening of the peak.
“You can’t stop it, so you should end up with a broader peak during which time you’d anticipate that more people would get immunity to this. That in itself becomes a protective part of this process.
“This is quite likely, I think, to become an annual virus, an annual seasonal infection.”
He added that the aim was to allow “herd immunity” to develop in the UK while protecting the most vulnerable from it.
Some experts have questioned if herd immunity is possible.
Dr Nicola Rose, of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, a Government body responsible for ensuring that medicines work and are safe, said it was too early to predict whether heard immunity would have any immediate benefit.
She said: “I think if the virus goes through a population, they may start to develop their own immunity, but it is too early to know what that looks like.
“We are a long way from what we would technically call herd immunity.”
Hanneke Schuitemaker, a professor in virology at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: “We may indeed see waves and we really don’t know whether there will be herd immunity or not in the near future.
“We are trying to contain the outbreak as much as possible – this then gives us time for vaccines to become available so you would be able to get into a situation, like with flu, where you have a vaccine for the vulnerable population available in the future.”
The current UK measures are that anyone with a cough or fever is advised to self-isolate at home for seven days.
The devolved government in Scotland has advised against gatherings of more than 500 people.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, said the measure had been taken to relieve pressure on the emergency services, not to slow the virus.
The next stage of the UK coronavirus battle plan would see the elderly told to stay at home and avoid socialising for up to three months during the summer in the hope of cutting deaths by a third.
Entire families will also be quarantined if one member has a cough or fever.
In other developments:
*A patient who was suffering from coronavirus has died in Scotland, the country’s chief medical officer has confirmed.
Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “I offer my deepest sympathy to their friends and family at this difficult time.”
She said the patient had been being treated by Lothian Health Board, and was an older person who had pre-existing health conditions.
*Health Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered anyone feeling unwell not to visit care homes. Advice issued to councils and care providers today said residents who feel unwell should be isolated in their rooms.
*A London Underground driver has tested positive for coronavirus.
The man, who works on the Tube’s Jubilee Line, has been off work this week after returning from holiday in Vietnam.
An internal message to staff said the driver, based at the North Greenwich depot, had been self-isolating.
* Radio 1’s Big Weekend will not go ahead.
The music festival, which had Biffy Clyro, Harry Styles and Camila Cabello on the line-up, was due to take place in Dundee from Friday May 22 to Sunday May 24.
*The Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the Spanish regions of Madrid, La Rioja and the municipalities of La Bastida, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro.
Britain’s youngest victim of coronavirus has been revealed as a 53-year mother-of-four who died after falling ill on a holiday in Bali.
Kimberley Finlayson, who ran a trade magazine on dentistry with her husband Ken, was described as “a whirlwind of energy and ideas” by family and friends.
Health authorities have said she suffered a series of pre-existing medical conditions.
On Friday night, health authorities in Bali announced that husband Ken had tested negative and may be allowed to leave hospital at the weekend.
He has been in Bali’s Sanglah hospital under isolation since March 8 and it is understood he will remain there for several more days for the second test to confirm the findings of the first negative test.
Their four children were not on holiday with the couple.
Meanwhile, some stores have had shelves stripped of goods as people continue to stockpile.
Anyone with a cough lasting more than four hours or a temperature above 37.8C is now advised to self-isolate for seven days.
They should stay at least two metres away from others at home “whenever possible” and sleep alone.
Brits with mild symptoms have been told they do not have to inform NHS 111 that they are self-isolating.
Anyone with concerns is urged to use NHS 111’s online service, rather than calling the telephone number, wherever possible. Anyone with serious symptoms should call 999.
Prince Charles and Camilla have postponed their spring tour and the Queen has suspended public engagements amid fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
The 93-year-old monarch has called off plans to visit Cheshire and Camden, north London, as a “sensible precaution” after consulting medics.
Charles, 71, and the Duchess of Cornwall, 72. Charles was due to fly to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the genocide with engagements in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, before meeting Camilla in Cyprus on Wednesday for a three-day stay.
It would have been the first official royal visit to Cyprus in 27 years.
The tour was due to end with a four days of engagements in Jordan, highlighting the refugee crisis in the country.
But a spokesman for Clarence House said: “Owing to the unfolding situation with the Coronavirus pandemic, The British Government has asked Their Royal Highnesses to postpone their spring tour to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan.”
While the Queen, who will turn 94 next month, was due to visit the Bentley Motors Factory in Crewe, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory and Square Kilometre Array Global Headquarters in Macclesfield on March 19.
She was also due to visit Camden on March 26 but full details of the trip had not yet been released.
A spokesman for the Queen said: “As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, changes are being made to The Queen’s diary commitments in the coming weeks.
“In consultation with the Medical Household and Government, Her Majesty’s forthcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden will be rescheduled.”
Other engagements for the Queen will be reviewed on an “ongoing basis”, officals added.
A senior palace source said both the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall remain in good health and were saddened to have been advised to cancel their spring tour which they were very much looking forward to.
Their team will now turn their attentions to determining whether Charles and Camilla can use the time to carry out some engagements in the U.K.
The biggest travel insurance provider AXA UK is the latest to restrict cover for claims around the coronavirus outbreak.
While the insurance giant will still sell travel cover, any new policies won’t now pay out if your trip is cancelled or disrupted due to the virus.
A statement on the firm’s website says that any new policy purchased, or new trip booked covered by an existing policy, after 3pm on March 13, 2020 will not cover any cancellation claim in relation to the coronavirus.
This comes hot on the heels of a list of insurers who have limited or changed the travel cover they offer for those affected by the virus, including Aviva, the Post Office and InsureandGo.
Other insurers have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance including LV=, Admiral, Churchill and Direct Line. They all stress that existing policies will still work, but they are not currently taking on any new customers.
This appears to have been prompted by the World Health Organisation declaration yesterday that the coronavirus was a pandemic. And a flood of people trying to cancel planned trips.
Travel insurance cover has always varied widely with differing levels of cover, exclusions and complex terms and conditions. So it’s important to read a policy carefully to find out what is covered and what you can make claims for.
Gareth Shaw, had of money at Which?, said: “Our concerns are being borne out with a large chunk of the insurance industry, including the biggest travel insurer AXA, suspending new travel insurance policies and putting coronavirus restrictions on existing ones.
“Anyone planning a holiday should get insurance as soon as they book. If you haven’t already booked insurance and are travelling soon we urge you to seek appropriate cover immediately from a reputable insurer.
“It’s now even more urgent that the government, insurers and the travel industry work together to tackle the huge challenge posed by coronavirus, as the industry depends on people having the confidence to travel knowing that they will be covered.”
Online grocer Ocado has banned its delivery drivers from stepping into people’s homes amid fears of coronavirus.
Drivers have been ordered to leave shopping on doorsteps even if customers are not self-isolating to reduce the risk of infection.
Households will be informed when their items are being dropped off and after a knock on the door or ring on the bell, drivers will leave.
They have also been urged to ensure steering wheels, handbrakes, radio controls and sat navs are regularly cleaned with anti-bacterial wipes.
In a missive sent to the fleet, returns and bags sent back are also out of bounds with instructions not to touch them, even if they have been left outside doors.
Drivers have been told: “Just tell the customer to keep them for a few weeks and we will let them know when we can pick them up again.”
Waitrose and Asda have asked online shoppers to tell them if they are self isolating and a safe place to drop off their shopping.
Asda said all its drivers had been issued with sanitiser sprays to keep their cabs clean and wipe down surfaces like door handles.
Sainsbury’s has asked for 24 hours notice ahead of the delivery slot if shoppers are self-isolating and said crates would be left outside front doors and collected once they had been emptied by the householder.
It said: “Drivers only enter at their own discretion.”
And Tesco has also asked for early warning from customers self isolating when ordering online so drivers could deliver groceries “safely”.
One of Britain’s biggest private hospital operators says it has been asked to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
Spire Healthcare said: “The exact nature, extent and the timing of this support is yet to be determined.”
The company runs 39 private hospitals across the UK. It revealed it “has been asked for, and has offered, its support to the NHS during this challenging time.” The move suggests the government and health officials could be considering calling on the private sector if the NHS is swamped with cases.
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