| 9.6°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Expert expects 'thousands' more UK cases within fortnight

Close

Warning: Dr Jenny Harries

Warning: Dr Jenny Harries

PA

Warning: Dr Jenny Harries

The start of the UK peak of the coronavirus epidemic is expected within the next fortnight, England's deputy chief medical officer said yesterday as cases rose to 373 and a sixth death was announced.

Dr Jenny Harries defended the Government's decision to delay closing schools and the introduction of other stringent tactics, saying experts were assessing cases on an hourly basis to achieve a "balanced response".

But new measures, including those aimed at protecting the elderly and vulnerable, are expected shortly as cases rise more rapidly across the UK.

Elsewhere:

  • British nationals on the Grand Princess cruise ship at the Port of Oakland, California, will land in the UK today and go into self-isolation;
  • Health minister Jo Churchill said some patients can expect to wait longer for NHS treatment as doctors prioritise those with more serious illness and multiple underlying conditions first;
  • Some air passengers have complained of being stranded in Italy after airlines including British Airways and Ryanair cancelled flights to and from the country;
  • The Foreign Office said it was in contact with Britons in Vietnam after reports of nine new cases were confirmed among travellers on the same flight from London to Hanoi on March 2, including seven British citizens;
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that "wherever clinically and practically possible, people can access and should access" GP appointments "through phones and digital means";
  • There were no handshakes from the Queen as she held an audience at Buckingham Palace, while food banks warned of a drop in donations as stockpiling continues;
  • Trinity College Dublin and Harvard in the US said that they were moving lessons online;
  • NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland mortgage customers affected by coronavirus could get to defer repayments for up to three months; and
  • A healthcare worker at Great Ormond Street was diagnosed with coronavirus, leading to the children's hospital postponing all non-essential cardiac procedures for two weeks.

The latest figures show that 373 people in the UK are now confirmed to have Covid-19 as of 9am yesterday, up from 319 the day before, and six people have died in British hospitals.

The increase is the second biggest day-on-day rise, and mirrors Monday's 17% increase.

The most recent patient death took place on Monday night at Watford General Hospital, part of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The patient, who is believed to have contracted the virus in the UK, was in their eighties and had underlying health conditions.

Earlier, Dr Harries said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK are "pretty well" but that they may "feel a bit rough for a few days".

She added: "We can expect a peak in cases. It has a relatively slow take-off at the start. That's where we are at the moment. It will start to rise quite sharply."

Asked when the rapid increase of infections might end, she said: "Within 10 to 14 days we will be likely to advise people with symptoms to self-isolate. We are expecting the start of the peak to come within that period."

Staying at home in self-isolation would be "extremely effective in trying to move our epidemic curve forward" towards warmer months, she added.

Dr Harries said cancelling big outdoor events like football matches would not necessarily be a decision supported by science.

"The virus will not survive very long outside," she said. "Many outdoor events, particularly, are relatively safe."

Speaking on Sky News, Dr Harries said "many thousands of people" would contract coronavirus as the disease continued to spread in the UK.

"Large numbers of the population will become infected because it's a naive population - nobody has got antibodies to this virus currently," she said.

"We will see many thousands of people infected by coronavirus. That's what we're seeing in other countries. The important thing for us is to make sure that we manage those infections."

Belfast Telegraph