The UK is MOST relaxed out of ten countries about coronavirus

The UK is the MOST relaxed about the killer coronavirus: Global poll reveals three quarters of Britons aren’t fazed by the infection – and are the least likely to wash their hands or avoid crowds where the illness may spread

  • YouGov survey put Britain last in terms of fear and preventative measures
  • Just 5 per cent of people in the UK said they were ‘very scared’ by coronavirus
  • And 44 per cent said they are ‘not very scared’, with 26 per cent not scared at all
  • Indonesians showed most fear, with 81 per cent very or somewhat scared 

British people are among the most relaxed people in the world about the threat of coronavirus – but are also the least likely to take precautions.

The virus has already infected 90 Britons and England’s chief medical officer has warned an epidemic on UK soil is now ‘highly likely’.

But a YouGov survey of 21,000 people in ten countries put Britain last both in public fear and likelihood of taking steps to limit the risk of getting the virus, such as washing hands.

Just 5 per cent of people in the UK said they were ‘very scared’ by coronavirus, while a further 19 per cent were ‘somewhat scared’ – both figures are lower than any other country polled.

And as many as 44 per cent of British people said they are ‘not very scared’ about the infection threat, with 26 per cent saying they are not scared at all.

Indonesians showed the most fear, with 81 per cent of people either very scared or somewhat scared – even though there have only been two cases in the country, with no deaths so far.

British people are among the most relaxed people in the world about the threat of coronavirus – but are also the least likely to take precautions

The virus has so far infected 90 Britons and England’s chief medical officer has warned an epidemic on UK soil is now ‘highly likely’ 

Unsurprisingly, people in Asian countries – where the outbreak has been the most severe – were the most concerned overall

But despite the fact that there have been more than 80,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths in China – where the virus originated – the country ranked sixth in the top ten list.

Just 26 per cent of Chinese people are very scared about the virus, with a further 40 per cent somewhat scared.

Second on the list was Malaysia, with 44 per cent very scared. There have been 50 confirmed cases in the country. This was followed by people in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand.


Leading scientist Professor Neil Ferguson declared yesterday that the world’s battle to contain coronavirus has been lost. 

He told the BBC Today programme: ‘You can see from the statistics, the number of countries affected that that battle is really over.’

More than 80 nations across the world have now confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Faroe Islands and Poland yesterday became the latest countries to be struck – only a handful of European nations have not recorded cases.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘We’re now moving towards trying to slow the spread to allow the health systems to cope and try to mitigate the impact of the epidemic.’

He added the UK was in the ‘early stage’ of an epidemic and said time is running out to contain the crisis by reducing the spread with drastic measures.

Professor Ferguson did not specify what sort of measures would be needed – but Italy, which is battling its own crisis, has urged residents to avoid kissing and is considering closing all schools for a fortnight.

In seventh and eighth are Taiwan and Singapore.

The US came in ninth and was the only other country besides Britain where less than half of people were worried. Just 8 per cent were very scared, with a further 25 per cent somewhat scared. 

Matthew Smith of YouGov said: ‘Majorities in all Asian countries and regions have started avoiding crowded places. In China, where quarantine measures are strictest, 85 per cent say they are avoiding places where they might run into large numbers of people. This figure is 83 per cent in Hong Kong. But even in the rest of the region, where governments have not placed such measures on the public, most people (67-76 per cent) are avoiding crowds.’ 

But in Britain, only 14 per cent of people said they are avoiding crowds.

And just 35 per cent of British people said they had improved their personal hygiene, such as by washing their hands.

The figure for people in Hong Kong was 89 per cent and 84 per cent in China.  

And official guidance about face masks being pointless appears to have cut through to ordinary people, with just 1 per cent of Britons saying they use them. 

Ninety per cent of people in Hong Kong are using masks, however.

Just 14 per cent of British people said they are avoiding touching objects in public, such as by pressing buttons in lifts with objects rather than their fingers.

By contrast, 70 per cent of Chinese people and 63 per cent of those in Hong Kong are being more careful with what they touch.  

The poll was conducted between February 28 and March 1. 

But the survey comes after photos from around the country showed how some Britons were stripping supermarket shelves of essentials.    

Shops including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose were looking increasingly desolate as people stockpiled household goods.

Pictures show empty aisles as sections for hand soap and disinfectant, nappies and baby wipes as well as dried goods such as pasta and rice are cleared. 

Supermarkets have told of how they are putting plans in place to cope with the unprecedented demand – as the number of cases is expected to rise.

Firms have ramped up production and are working at ‘full capacity’ to ensure shelves can be re-stocked as analysts predict retailers ‘will keep the country fed.’

Retailers are even considering rationing household essentials such as toilet paper in response to panic buying, with some shoppers spending £900 online.

It comes as the new chief of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey warned yesterday that businesses will need a bailout from government to get over the crisis.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday that people’s lives may have to be put on hold for up to three months to fight the deadly virus. 

In the worst case scenario, schools could be shut, millions could be forced to work from home and people could be asked to stop eating out, going to the pub or shopping in a bid to keep them away from others.

A London supermarket’s toilet paper aisle is left bare amid reports of stockpiling across the UK

Osterley, west London: There is barely a bottle of handsoap in this branch of Tesco

Official disaster projections suggest as many as half a million people could die if the disease isn’t controlled, but evidence from China – where the outbreak is now slowing down – suggests the real figure would be only a fraction of this.

Professor Whitty told Sky News: ‘I think it is… almost certain there will be more cases in the UK, probably a lot more cases as the Prime Minister laid out, and we would expect some deaths, yes.’

The Prime Minister also announced statutory sick pay will be available to workers staying at home with possible coronavirus infections from the first day of illness instead of the fourth, amid fears employees may not get paid if they take time off.


Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

More than 3,200 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and over 94,000 have been infected. Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.

By February 25, around 80,000 people had been infected and some 2,700 had died. February 25 was the first day in the outbreak when fewer cases were diagnosed within China than in the rest of the world. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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