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Coronavirus: Spike in UK cases as 36 confirmed in single day

Sick pay for workers isolating as medics advise not to wear face masks

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A mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for coronavirus. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for coronavirus. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference at 10 Downing Street on the Government’s coronavirus action plan (Frank Augstein/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference at 10 Downing Street on the Government’s coronavirus action plan (Frank Augstein/PA)

A mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for coronavirus. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A total of 87 people in the UK, including three in Northern Ireland, have now been diagnosed with coronavirus, health authorities say.

The figures represent a jump of 36 new cases - the biggest day-on-day increase so far - including two in Northern Ireland.

England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: "As of 9am this morning 32 further patients in England have tested positive for Covid-19.

"Twenty-nine patients were diagnosed who had recently travelled from recognised countries or from recognised clusters which were under investigation.

"Three additional patients 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. This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun.

"The total number of confirmed cases in England is now 80."

With three confirmed cases in Northern Ireland, one in Wales and three in Scotland, the total number of UK cases is 87.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced people self-isolating because of the coronavirus outbreak will get sick pay from the first day they take off work.

He said people should not be "penalised for doing the right thing" and emergency legislation would be introduced.

It comes as health officials in Northern Ireland have said they expect the virus to spread. Although the risks remain low.

Over 150 people have been tested in Northern Ireland. Across Europe the outbreak is rapidly developing. There have been 79 deaths in Italy which has announced the closure of all schools and colleges to contain the spread.

The Republic of Ireland has had two confirmed cases.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill are to attend emergency meetings on the outbreak and Finance Minister Conor Murphy is expected to ask the London Treasury for more cash in order to allow public services to cope with any additional pressures.

Northern Ireland chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said 95% of those that get the infection will have a mild to moderate illness with the remaining 5% needing hospital treatment. He said 99% will make a full recovery.

He said those over 80 and with underlying medical conditions were more susceptible but they could not be certain of mortality rates as how the virus behaved in countries like our own with "excellent health care systems".

He said - based on the existing data - there was evidence children were not susceptible to coronavirus but based on previous experience with outbreaks they were "effective spreaders" and it was vitally important all the public followed advice, particularly on good hygiene.

"There are risks to the whole population," he said, "older people and with chronic conditions will be most vulnerable."

Anyone taking medication for a condition which makes them more vulnerable to the disease was urged to follow their own doctor's advice. He stressed if people followed advice on hygiene, it would limit the spread of the disease and the strain on the health care system.

The most important thing we can do to keep ourselves save is to practice good respiratory hygiene. Catch, kill it, bin it kill it Michael McBride

Dr McBride said the public should not wear face masks as they were not an effective means of preventing the spread of germs.

The medic explained that after a short space of time the masks got moist and were ineffective. He said medical professionals used specialised masks which could stop transmission.

"More effective is handwashing," he told the BBC Stephen Nolan show during a special Radio Ulster programme on the outbreak.

"People should not be wearing face masks. The most important thing we can do to keep ourselves save is to practice good respiratory hygiene. Catch, kill it, bin it kill it.

"Wash your hands regularly, wash your hands before preparing food, before eating, before and after toileting and after sneezing."

Health authorities were expecting supplies of medical equipment such as masks and other protective equipment to be delivered this week and there is a team of people looking at how supply may be affected as the outbreak develops. They also have stockpiles of personal protective equipment should they be required.

Should there be an influx of people to hospitals procedures could be cancelled and appointments rescheduled. However, it was emphasised if the public followed the advice the health and social care system could cope better.

Let's not create panic and overconcern.. People in Northern Ireland are stoic, resilient, we have had challenges before

Dr McBride said it was "inevitable" there would be more cases in Northern Ireland with "pockets or clusters" developing in communities over time.

He said it was important people followed advice and guidance issued by the relevant authorities. He said he had advised his own elderly family members that they should go on their planned holidays.

On school ski trips he said the guidance should be followed but they could not issue specific advice to any school.

Health authorities in NI are working with their counterparts in the rest of the UK and in the Republic on handling the outbreak and are planning for every possible eventuality.

"This is about being balanced and proportionate," continued Dr McBride.

"Let's be aware there are some increased risks, let's not create panic and overconcern. People in Northern Ireland are stoic, resilient, we have had challenges before.

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Am mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for Coronavirus by driving into the Ambulance Bay.  Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Am mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for Coronavirus by driving into the Ambulance Bay. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Am mock-up at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department demonstrating how members of the public can be assessed for Coronavirus by driving into the Ambulance Bay. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

"The important thing is we get relevant information out to the public and those at greater risk.. so people can make informed intelligent decisions.

"If we don't do anything we would see people infected rise quite sharply.

"There are things we can do to reduce the peak that are in the action plan that is flattening the number of people affected.

"It could push the spread of the virus into late spring, summer where don't have other pressures or to same extent. If we reduce the peak it will give more time for the health service and reduce impact on health service."

The public should be reassured we will do the right thing in the right sequence to keep people safe

Dr McBride said a balance had to be struck in terms of the extent of the measures taken to contain the virus such as closing schools and cancelling large events.

"To do them too early there will be no benefit and huge social and economic cost and quite rightly unnecessary public concern.

"If we do them too late and don't take those actions, then we miss the benefit."

He said health care professionals were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week with officials in the republic and the rest of the UK in order to prepare and adapt for the spread of the virus.

"We have been here before with previous outbreaks we have robust processes and plans," he said

"The public should be reassured we will do the right thing in the right sequence to keep people safe and maintain services and people should go about daily lives but bear in mind and keep on board the important public health protection advice."

Belfast Telegraph


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