| 10.2°C Belfast

Coronavirus: UK now has 90 confirmed cases

England’s chief medical officer is being grilled by MPs on the UK’s strategy for handling a coronavirus epidemic.


An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of a coronavirus pod

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of a coronavirus pod

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of a coronavirus pod

There are now 90 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK after Scotland declared three more.

Overall, current figures show 80 cases in England, six in Scotland, one in Wales and three in Northern Ireland.

It comes as MPs grill England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, on the UK’s plans for tackling Covid-19.

He told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee it is now “highly likely” there is “community transmission” of coronavirus in the UK.

He added: “I’m expecting the number only to go up, and there are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission, either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

“That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.

“I think we should work on the assumption it is here, on very low levels, at this point in time – but that I think should be the working assumption on which we go forward from this point onwards.”

A woman wearing a face mask in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

In other key developments:

– Health Minister Edward Argar said the Government is awaiting the advice of Prof Whitty before moving from the current containment phase to the delay phase of tackling the virus.

– ITV revealed travel companies are deferring their TV advertising because of the disease, with advertising revenue due to drop 10% in April.

– Europe’s largest regional airline Flybe has collapsed into administration, with a source telling the PA news agency coronavirus “made a difficult situation worse”.

– Dancing On Ice star and blind sprinter Libby Clegg said she is “upset” about the cancellation of a Paralympic training camp in Japan amid fears about coronavirus.

– The Grand Princess cruise ship, with around 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew, is being held off the coast of California after a former passenger died from Covid-19.

– Kings College Hospital in south London, confirmed two recent patients had tested positive for Covid-19, with some staff told to self-isolate.

– 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.

– England’s Six Nations game against Italy on March 14 in Rome has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the PA news agency understands.

Prof Whitty told MPs the response to coronavirus was already moving into its second “delay” phase, rather than seeking to simply “contain” the disease.

“We have moved from a situation where we are mainly in contain, with some delay built in, to we are now mainly delay,” he said, although elements of the contain process were remaining in place.

Asked by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt why the Department of Health was no longer providing daily regional information on the location of new cases, Prof Whitty said: “We had a bit of a communications fumble on this.”

He said the plan was, in the medium term, for the Department of Health to provide “a lot more information with maps and other things” and a “dashboard” of cases.

But he said there would be “some delay of about 24 hours” to ensure the data is correct.

He said some people with coronavirus in the UK had “suffered vilifications on social media” and sometimes in the mainstream media.

He added: “I am not in favour of going down to street level or ‘you’re within 100 metres of a coronavirus (case)’ because I think that is the wrong approach in this country.”