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Covid-19 cases hit three figures as UK moves to ‘delay phase’

More than 18,000 people have now been tested for the virus.

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A sign near a Coronavirus Pod at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

A sign near a Coronavirus Pod at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

A sign near a Coronavirus Pod at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK has exceeded 100, as England’s Chief Medical Officer told MPs the UK had mainly moved to the “delay stage” of tackling the virus.

As of 9am on Thursday, the Department of Health and Social Care said 115 people had tested positive and a total of 18,083 people had been tested.

The new cases included a further 25 people in England.

Professor Chris Whitty said 17 people were diagnosed who had recently travelled from countries or clusters already under investigation.

Eight people contracted the virus in the UK, he added.

Prof Whitty said: “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 115 cases as of 9am on Thursday marks a rise from 85 at the same point on Wednesday.

Shortly after the announcement by the Department of Health, a second case was confirmed in Wales by the country’s chief medical officer.

Out of the cases identified in England, 25 of them are in London.

Coronavirus cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

The north-west and north-east each have 17 cases and four cases are still to be determined, the Department of Health said.

Prof Whitty earlier told MPs the UK has now mainly moved into the delay phase, which 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, Prof Whitty said closing schools would possibly only have a “marginal effect”, adding that children do not appear to be as badly affected by Covid-19 as other groups.

And he told MPs the UK is now “heavily planning” for the mitigation phase.

Prof Whitty was giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee, with MPs including former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

He also warned MPs that critical care beds in the NHS could be put under intense pressure during an epidemic.

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”.

He added: “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.”

Half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period, he added.

PA