Total number of UK coronavirus cases soars to 115 with 25 more diagnosed

Britain's coronavirus count has soared to 115 after 25 more people were diagnosed with the killer bug in the past 24 hours.

Birmingham (one), Staffordshire (two) and South Yorkshire (one) all recorded their first cases after three more people in Scotland contracted the flu-like illness and a second case was confirmed in Wales.

Two more cases have been confirmed in Liverpool, the city council said.

A research analyst at HSBC's global headquarters in London tested positive after returning from China.

Two cases have been confirmed in Wigan, and the University of Sussex said someone associated with the school has caught the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer of the NHS, said: "As of 9am this morning, 25 further patients in England have tested positive for COVID-19. 17 were diagnosed who had recently travelled from recognised countries or from recognised clusters which were under investigation.

"Eight contracted the virus in the UK and it is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad."

Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Coronavirus can stay on handrails for up to 72 hours – but no need to avoid bus or train

  • Coronavirus LIVE: UK cases rise to 90 as Birmingham records first infection

This brings the total in England to 105, while there have been six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said: "We have identified yesterday evening the second Welsh case. It's a patient who has travel history to Italy, a Cardiff resident who has been assessed by infectious disease experts, and who is being managed in a setting in Wales."

Dr Atherton said the patient, who he said he could not identify but was not thought to have a connection to the first patient who tested positive for the disease, was being treated in the Welsh NHS.

He said the patient was identified from community testing at their home.

The first known case of coronavirus has been confirmed in South Yorkshire.

PHE said it is contacting people who have been in contact with a presumed positive case in Rotherham.

Dr Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "Any risk to people in Rotherham remains low and there is no reason for anyone not to go about their normal business. PHE is directly contacting anyone who has been a close contact of the case."

Teresa Roche, director of public health at Rotherham Council, said: "We have robust infection control arrangements in place and strong partnership arrangements across the health and care system.

"We will continue to work closely with Public Health England who is leading on the response, as well as the NHS and all our health and care partners to prevent further spread of the virus."

The Government is moving into the "delay phase" of tackling the virus amid fears that the NHS may run out of beds and struggle to cope during a large epidemic.

The delay phase means measures can be ramped up to delay its spread, with possibilities including school closures, encouraging greater home working, and reducing the number of large-scale gatherings.

However, Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, told MPs that closing schools would possibly only have a "marginal effect", adding that children do not appear to be as badly affected by coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, as other groups.

He said the UK is now "heavily planning" for the mitigation phase – the fourth and final phase of the Government's action plan.

He also said smokers were more at risk and should quit, and the virus can survive on handrails on public transport for up to 72 hours, but there was no need to avoid taking trains or buses.

Hospitals have been told to brace for a rapid increase in infections and health chiefs have warned that some deaths are possible.

Giving evidence to the Commons' Health and Social Care Committee, Professor Whitty said he had a "reasonably high degree of confidence" that one per cent is at the "upper limit" of the mortality rate for coronavirus.

Wuhan, the epicentre in China, which has a weaker health system, had seen an eight to nine per cent mortality rate for those aged 80 and over.

Asked if there is enough space in mortuaries to cope with a big increase in deaths, Professor Whitty admitted: "It depends how much worse it gets.

"But there are plans for this. This is standard planning for many emergencies."

The average time between acquiring the virus and showing symptoms is about five days, he added.

Professor Whitty told MPs the NHS would be "lucky" to get a vaccine for Covid-19 in the next year, but it would "not get us out of a hole now".

However, he said other existing treatments may work in high-risk groups although they would not be "perfect".

He warned that critical care beds in the NHS could come under intense pressure during an epidemic and people needing oxygen would stretch the service.

Some "things may be considerably less well done" during the peak of an epidemic, he added.

But he said the effect could be anything from "a rather bad winter for the NHS", through to huge numbers where not everyone could be found a bed.

A research analyst based at HSBC's global headquarters in Canary Wharf, east London, has tested positive after returning from China.

One floor at the skyscraper were cleared and undergoing a deep clean on Thursday.

An HSBC spokesperson said: “We have been informed that one of our employees at 8 Canada Square has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

“This colleague is under medical supervision and has self-isolated.

“We are deep-cleaning the floor where our colleague worked and shared areas of the building.

“Colleagues on that floor, and others who came into contact with him, have been advised to work at home."

Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Wigan.

Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “We have received confirmation of two unrelated Covid-19 cases in Wigan Borough.

“We are working closely with Public Health England and the NHS to prevent further spread of the virus and we will share timely and relevant information with the public.”

Staffordshire County Council announced two cases there, adding: "There remains no significant risk to the public."

Birmingham council confirmed the city's first case, saying the patient was "of working age" and in hospital.

The University of Sussex said someone associated with the school has contracted the illness, but there was no need to close any parts of the campus.

A letter to students stated: "We want to make you aware that Public Health England (PHE) has informed the University that an individual associated with Sussex has tested positive for the virus, following travel overseas.

"However, as they have not visited Brighton or our campus since travelling, PHE has confirmed there is no need for any special measures and that campus activities should continue as normal.

"There has been no confirmed case of coronavirus on our campus."

Three more patients have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland, doubling the total north of the border.

The new patients are in the Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Grampian health board areas and all are contacts of known cases.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said the patients are currently clinically well and are receiving appropriate care.

The first case in Scotland was confirmed on Sunday evening in Tayside, with a further two cases diagnosed in Ayrshire and Grampian on Wednesday.

Half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95 per cent of them over a nine-week period, Professor Whitty said.

He said the NHS is "incredibly good at flexing" to meet the demands put on it but acknowledged that, at a peak, "things may be considerably less well done than we would hope for a short but definable period of time".

"The bit of the system which will come under pressure first will be those conditions that require people to have oxygen and particularly to have critical care beds, and that bit, I think, will come under pressure at quite an early stage if we have a high-end-of-the-range epidemic for this," he said.

"Wider general services will be much less affected. And children's services – because children seem to be relatively spared from this disease – I think will be relatively much less affected."

Prof Whitty said the UK has now mainly moved to the delay stage of tackling the virus as is evidence as evidence of community transmission emerges.

The first stage was contain, the third is research and the fourth is mitigate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) was considering a range of options to delay the spread of the disease.

"At the moment what they are telling me is, actually, slightly counter-intuitively, things like closing schools and stopping big gatherings don't work as well perhaps as people think in stopping the spread," he said.

"One of the theories is perhaps you could take it in on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease to move through the population without really taking as many draconian measures. I think we need to strike a balance.

"I think it would be better if we take all the measures that we can now just to stop the peak of the disease being as difficult for the NHS as it might. I think there are things we may be able to do."

Seeking to reassure the public, Mr Johnson told ITV's Good Morning Britain it would be "business as usual" for the "overwhelming majority" of people in the UK.

"The scientists have done a very good job of explaining to us what the risks are and they are really quite small. They are appreciable but quite small," he said.

"People can see that this country is going to get through this in good shape."

He added: "It is always worth stressing with this that the overwhelming majority of people, this is going to be – who get it – this is going to be a mild to moderate illness.

"We are still at the stage where the single best thing we can do … is just wash our hands."

Asked about concerns that critical care facilities would come under pressure, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I'm confident that the NHS will rise to this challenge.

"The NHS is very strong at dealing with crises and we have extensive plans in place at every level of the NHS to be able to deal with this virus."

Mr Hancock said shutting down "all our schools and universities" would "not have a clinical benefit at this stage, but it would impose huge social and economic costs".

He also played down the prospect of cancelling "large events".

"The science on large events is that now there is no material clinical benefit, epidemiological benefit, to cancelling events, so long as people undertake the public health measures that I'm sure you all have heard of – wash your hands and, if you have a cough or sneeze, catch it."

In other key developments:

  • Asdressing recent panic buying, Professor Whitty said there is "no need" for people to stockpile food or medicine.
  • He said the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma should not self-isolate.
  • Pregnant women should not start worrying about coronavirus, he added.
  • Europe's largest regional airline, Flybe, collapsed into administration, with a source saying coronavirus "made a difficult situation worse".
  • The Department of Health was criticised by experts and the public on Twitter for failing to provide daily updates on the locations of new UK cases.
  • Number 10 confirmed that geographic information on Covid-19 cases would be released daily.
  • Downing Street said Britain will not need to ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period because of the the spread of coronavirus.
  • England's Six Nations rugby match against Italy on March 14 in Rome has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Smokers urged to quit

Professor Whitty told MPs that smokers are more at risk of catching coronavirus and they should quit.

He said: "To be clear on smokers, my recommendation is that they stop smoking.

"If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.

"But it is not that I'm saying they should self-isolate or behave in any way differently.

"I'm just highlighting that as an additional vulnerability for people who are otherwise healthy."

There were fears that an epidemic would force Parliament to close for months.

Labour former cabinet minister Lord Adonis said Westminster should "keep calm and carry on" in the face of the outbreak, as it was warned nothing would cause more public alarm than Parliament failing to sit.

Source: Read Full Article