While the official number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK is currently 590, Sir Patrick Vallance, UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said the number is likely in the thousands, with many more cases yet to be detected. So far at least 10 people have died from the killer virus in the UK.
Mr Johnson declared the coronavirus outbreak was “the worst public health crisis for a generation” as he warned the number of cases could be “much higher” than had been confirmed.
Speaking in Downing Street alongside Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty, Sir Patrick said: “This is the shape of an epidemic, you go along the bottom for some time with not very much happening.
“There are 590 cases in the UK and more than 20 in intensive care units – it’s much more likely we have 5,000 and 10,000 infected at the moment.
“That’s still a relatively small number – as these curves take off, they take off quite steeply – what you want to do is protect people in the most infectious period.
“The actions we need to take is to delay the peak and to push the peak down. Reduce the number of cases at any one time – very important for NHS – and it’s important because it pushes it into the summer months, where the NHS is less busy.”
Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer, said: “The contain finishes from today. Fantastic work has been done in the NHS and public health – finding the early cases – isolating them with the consent of the people involved and following the transmission has pushed it out in time, the delay has already begun as a result of our colleagues and public spirit of people who came forward.
“Now we come forward to the next phase, that is clear from the WHO declared this a global pandemic and today the four UK CMO’s agree we should raise the risk to ‘high’.
“In terms of what can people do to have the smallest impact, and we need to do the right things at the right time, if people go too early, they become fatigued.
“This is going to be a long hall it is very important we do not start things in advance of need.
“The things we can do now, we can not emphasise enough about washing hands. But the new things from today are to ask anybody with a continuous and new cough or a temperature – we wish those people to stay at home for seven days.
“The reason for this, is it helps to protect older or more vulnerable people…this helps to reduce the peak of the epidemic, making it easier for the NHS and health services.
“It can also lead to increase delay – putting it further into the area where the NHS is under less pressure.”
More to follow.