The UK Government is working on the assumption that up to 50 percent of the country’s population – or 33 million people – could be hit by coronavirus (covid-19) if China is unable to bring the deadly disease under control. John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned this worrying projection is a “distinct possibility”. He added: “It doesn’t mean to say that everybody is going to be seriously ill. The vast majority would have mild illness, a cough and a cold, then recover and be perfectly well.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS is “well prepared” for coronavirus but warned it still poses a “serious and imminent” threat to the UK population.
Last night, the NHS revealed eight of the nine patients who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK have been discharged from hospital. All 94 people in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral have also been released.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Sunday that 3,109 tests have been carried out in the UK so far, with nine positive results. This is an increase of 117 tests on the 2,992 reported on Saturday.
But the global coronavirus death roll has surged past 1,500, with the number of confirmed cases now standing at more than 67,000.
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A report from one of the world’s top catastrophe risk-modelling companies has warned the next two weeks will be “critical” in detaining whether China can bring its epidemic “under control”, and that effort “will shape the global scale” of the crisis.
Gordon Woo, a catastrophist with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), which compiled the 26-page briefing, said: “The worst-case scenario would involve failure of containment measures in China, with the virus spreading quickly, first to southeast Asia and then progressively to the rest of the world.”
The paper added: “Approximately 75 percent of all covid-19 cases leaving China would reach their destination within the incubation period and therefore not be detected by questionnaires or scanning.”
RMS has estimated the average time before symptoms develop is five days, but can range from two to 12 days.
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The report added outside of China, “there are likely to be very many mild infections, which are unreported”.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at Nottingham University, said: “This report needs serious consideration by the authorities.
“The only chance we have — a chance that seems to be fading by the day — to stop this virus appearing in the UK in larger numbers is to ensure that anyone turning up here with the virus is identified quickly and isolated.
“There are some worrying features of how this virus seems to be spreading in places outside China, in Singapore for example, that suggests there might already be undetected transmission of the virus.
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“That’s what the virus will need to do if it were to take hold here.
“It might be too late, and our boundaries too leaky, to stop this from happening.”
The latest warnings come as the UK’s hospitals have been ordered to take a raft of new measures to stop the coronavirus spreading across Britain.
Health officials are prepared to use 24 NHS hospital to treat patients if there is a rapid spread of infections, and are considering expanding NHS 111 series to cope with increased demand.
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Hospitals have also been told to prepare airtight rooms with en-suite bathroom facilities in a bid to isolate cases; and establish teams responsible for “rapidly decontaminating” areas where patients have been.
The have also been ordered to avoid using agency staff for suspected patients to stop the virus spreading cross hospitals, care homes and schools, but an NHS Trust executive warned that would be “practically impossible” because of the already huge NHS recruitment crisis.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged governments to ramp up their efforts and intensify our preparedness.
Coronavirus: The US is preparing to evacuate hundreds of citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship
The latest warnings and contingency plans come after the US vowed to evacuate hundreds of American citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is docked in Yokohama, Japan.
Some 400 US citizens have so far not been allowed to leave the ship after an 80-year-old man tested positive for coronavirus.
The cruise ship has now reported 355 infection cases among the 3,900 passengers and crew members on board.
Donald Trump’s government is set to send a charter plane on Sunday evening to evacuate its citizens and immediate place them in quarantine back home.