Health chiefs urge over-60s to avoid crowds as coronavirus panic spreads


Health chiefs have urged people aged over 60 to avoid crowds amid wide-spread coronavirus panic as an infant school worker is revealed as one of three new UK patients.

The World Health Organisation issued the drastic warning which also urged people in this age group to skip routine appointments at doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.

It comes as a worker at an infant school in Berkshire was one of three further patients from England who tested positive for coronavirus yesterday bringing the total number of UK cases to 23.

Parents were sent an email advising them that Willow Bank Infant School will be ‘shut for some days to allow for a deep clean’ as it is revealed more than 10,000 Britons have now been tested for the deadly virus.

The other two cases – one in the Cotswolds, specifically Gloucestershire and another in Hertfordshire – are being investigated and any individuals who had contact with the patients are now being traced. 

The Cotswolds resident became infected in Italy, where more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed. 

Public Health England would not clarify, however, which of the Berkshire and the Hertfordshire cases had returned from Italy and which had returned from Asia. 

Debra Lapthorne, centre director for Public Health England South West, said: ‘Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with one of the latest confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Everyone aged over 60 is being advised by the World Health Organisation to avoid crowded areas including trains, buses and even supermarkets to prevent catching coronavirus (pictured, Bournemouth fans wearing protective masks)

Everyone aged over 60 is being advised by the World Health Organisation to avoid crowded areas including trains, buses and even supermarkets to prevent catching coronavirus (pictured, Bournemouth fans wearing protective masks)

A worker at an infant school in Berkshire tested positive for the virus, as parents were sent an email advising them of the news

A worker at an infant school in Berkshire tested positive for the virus, as parents were sent an email advising them of the news

While infection is far more likely to cause severe illness in the elderly, the advice also applies to people of all ages who have serious health conditions (pictured, army soldiers wearing protective suits spraying disinfectant in Daegu, South Korea)

While infection is far more likely to cause severe illness in the elderly, the advice also applies to people of all ages who have serious health conditions (pictured, army soldiers wearing protective suits spraying disinfectant in Daegu, South Korea)

Father-of-two tells how he and his family were put into isolation after developing suspected coronavirus symptoms

A father-of-two told how his family were taken away by an emergency crew in hazmat suits after they returned from a holiday in Italy with suspected coronavirus symptoms.

Callum Kerslake, 24, said he is ‘terrified’ as he waits for results with his wife Jessica Luana, 21, and their children Sophia, three, and CJay, 11 months.

Callum Kerslake, 24, told how his family were taken away by an emergency crew in hazmat suits after they returned from a holiday in Italy with suspected coronavirus symptoms. Pictured: Callum and his wife Jessica Luana, 21, and their children Sophia, three, and CJay, 11 months

Callum Kerslake, 24, told how his family were taken away by an emergency crew in hazmat suits after they returned from a holiday in Italy with suspected coronavirus symptoms. Pictured: Callum and his wife Jessica Luana, 21, and their children Sophia, three, and CJay, 11 months

The family fell ill while on a trip to Dola, Venice and flew into Stansted on Thursday night, The Mirror reports.

They returned to their home in Hull.

On Friday, a 999 team took them away for tests.

The family fell ill while on a trip to Dola, Venice and flew into Stansted on Thursday night

The family fell ill while on a trip to Dola, Venice and flew into Stansted on Thursday night

They are now back home in self-isolation and the children still have temperatures of 40C.

Mr Kerslake said: ‘We’ve never been so sick. My eyes were on fire.

He added: ‘None of us can stop coughing.’

‘The case is a resident from the Cotswolds area and became infected whilst in northern Italy.

‘Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case.

‘This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.

‘If you have not been contacted by Public Health England, you do not need to take any action at this time.’

The letter to parents of pupils at the Berkshire infant school read: ‘We regret to inform you that we were told today that one of our members of staff has tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID- 19.

‘We understand that this will worry many of you, and can reassure you that we have taken advice from Public Health England, who have released the attached statements. 

‘We have also attached some FAQs which will hopefully answer some of the questions you may have. 

‘We apologise that it has taken some time to officially inform you, however we have first had to perform the necessary checks and procedures that follow such an incident, which has taken most of today. 

‘Please can we ask that you remain calm and follow the recommended hygiene procedures. 

‘The school will be shut for some days to allow for a deep clean and to ensure that the risks of infection remain low. 

‘We will be in contact to ensure that you are kept updated.’

The Irish Republic also confirmed its first case yesterday as a man was diagnosed with coronavirus after travelling to Italy.

Health authorities are now trying to establish what contacts the patient had in Ireland since travelling from one of the areas badly affected by the outbreak. 

Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the patient was receiving medical care. 

Just 48 hours ago, the first case in Northern Ireland was made public.

It comes as the British Government prepares to bring in new emergency powers to help stop the virus spreading after ten cases were reported in just three days – and 1,000 were tested in the last 24 hours alone.

The emergency powers will give schools, councils and other parts of the public sector the ability to suspend laws – including health and safety measures – to cope with a pandemic.

Elsewhere, fears are growing about an explosion of cases in Surrey after an unknown coronavirus spreader gave the deadly illness to the UK’s 20th victim – the first Briton to catch it having not travelled abroad. 

The victim, announced on Friday night, is understood to be a man who was treated at Haslemere Health Centre before being transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London. 

The letter to parents of pupils at the Berkshire infant school (pictured) read: 'We regret to inform you that we were told today that one of our members of staff has tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID- 19'

The letter to parents of pupils at the Berkshire infant school (pictured) read: ‘We regret to inform you that we were told today that one of our members of staff has tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID- 19’

The first case of coronavirus confirmed in the Irish Republic is a man who contracted the killer virus in northern Italy. Pictured: Health Minister Simon Harris meets staff running a coronavirus public awareness campaign in Dublin Airport

The first case of coronavirus confirmed in the Irish Republic is a man who contracted the killer virus in northern Italy. Pictured: Health Minister Simon Harris meets staff running a coronavirus public awareness campaign in Dublin Airport

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt also today confirmed a GP, thought to work at the health centre where the 20th victim fell ill, is showing symptoms of the infection and spoke of a ‘worrying time’ for those in the county. 

Sevenoaks Hospital in Kent closed yesterday evening over fears that a patient who walked in was carrying coronavirus.

A spokesperson for Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, confirmed it would reopen as normal later today.

They said: ‘A person came to our Sevenoaks Minor Injury Unit (MIU) today and they are now at home, following Public Health England advice.

‘At this stage, it is too early to say whether they have COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our staff followed national procedures and guidance, and as a precaution, we have temporarily closed our minor injury unit and it will be reopening tomorrow morning as normal.

‘The contact details for other people who were at Sevenoaks MIU have been taken in case they are needed. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 please call 111 and follow their advice.’ 

In Liverpool, a city centre hotel has been hit by coronavirus fears after a guest reportedly self-quarantined in their hotel room after falling ill following a trip to Thailand.

While infection is far more likely to cause severe illness in the elderly, WHO advice also applies to people of all ages who have serious health conditions.

WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told his half a million Twitter followers yesterday: ‘If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe #COVID19. 

The three new cases - one in Gloucestershire, one in Hertfordshire and another in Berkshire - are being investigated and any individuals who had contact with the patients are now being traced.

The three new cases – one in Gloucestershire, one in Hertfordshire and another in Berkshire – are being investigated and any individuals who had contact with the patients are now being traced.

The Republic of Ireland's first case comes as three more patients from England tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 23. Pictured: A man wearing a face mask in Dublin Airport

The Republic of Ireland’s first case comes as three more patients from England tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 23. Pictured: A man wearing a face mask in Dublin Airport

‘Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.’ 

In Australia, a 78-year-old man who contracted coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan became the first Australian to die of the disease.

Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran, which has had 43 deaths and 593 cases confirmed, have led to infections of people in other countries.

Iran has the highest death toll outside China, and health officials urged people not to attend funerals, as mass gatherings could help spread the virus.

Earlier on Saturday, Bahrain threatened to prosecute travellers who came from Iran and had not been tested. The island nation has been hard-hit and shut down flights to halt the spread, and all its cases link back to Iran. 

The US is banning travel to Iran and elevating travel warnings to regions of Italy and South Korea.

Vice president Mike Pence announced the new restrictions and warnings as President Donald Trump said 22 people in the US have been infected by the coronavirus and that additional cases are ‘likely’.

Just 48 hours ago, the first case in Northern Ireland was made public - as it's revealed more than 10,000 Britons have now been tested for the deadly virus. Pictured: A man wearing a facemask in Dublin Airport

Just 48 hours ago, the first case in Northern Ireland was made public – as it’s revealed more than 10,000 Britons have now been tested for the deadly virus. Pictured: A man wearing a facemask in Dublin Airport

Bournemouth fans wore protective facemasks branded with the club's crest in the crowd during the game against Chelsea yesterday

Bournemouth fans wore protective facemasks branded with the club’s crest in the crowd during the game against Chelsea yesterday

Mr Trump added that he was considering additional restrictions, including closing the US border with Mexico in response to the virus’s spread.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar said: ‘We want to lower the amount of travel to and from the most impacted areas. This is a basic containment strategy.’

Mr Trump provided an update on the virus after the first reported US death of a woman he described as being in her late 50s and having a high medical risk.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said there was ‘no evidence of link to travel’ in the case of the woman who died.

Mr Trump said healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus, as he tried to reassure Americans and global markets spooked by the virus threat.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said all passenger flights to and from Italy, Iraq and South Korea had been halted.

France and Germany were also seeing increases, with dozens of infections.

France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to slow the spread of coronavirus cases and recommending that people no longer greet each other with kisses.

The cancellation of large gatherings in confined spaces was announced by Health Minister Olivier Veran after special government meetings Saturday that focused on responses to the epidemic. 

Having previously recommended that people avoid shaking hands, the minister said they should also cut back on ‘la bise,’ the custom in France and elsewhere in Europe of giving greetings with kisses, or air kisses, on the cheeks.

Fans were blasted when they wore the same masks at another match earlier this month. Pictured: Fans at Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, yesterday

Fans were blasted when they wore the same masks at another match earlier this month. Pictured: Fans at Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, yesterday

At the earlier match, Bournemouth officials told reporters that the men were wearing the masks as a joke. Pictured: The men at a match yesterday

At the earlier match, Bournemouth officials told reporters that the men were wearing the masks as a joke. Pictured: The men at a match yesterday

The tightened restrictions on public gatherings had an immediate impact. A major four-day trade show in Cannes for property investors was postponed from March to June.

A half-marathon that was scheduled for Sunday in Paris also was cancelled, as was a carnival in the Alpine town of Annecy, Veran announced. 

He said other outdoor events and gatherings that might lead to a mixing of people from infected areas could also be canceled.

Public gatherings are being banned completely in the Oise region north of Paris that has seen a cluster of cases, and in a town in the foothills of the Alps that has also seen infections, he said.

Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March.

Seventy cases – the largest from a single prefecture in Japan – have been detected in the island prefecture, where experts have raised concern about growing clusters of patients with unknown transmission routes.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe, who has been criticised for lacking leadership and crisis management, stepped up measures earlier this week, and urged school across the county to close until the end of March.

Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by K-pop group BTS.

The patient, from Surrey, is understood to be a man who was treated at Haslemere Health Centre before being transferred to Guy's and St Thomas' hospital in London. The health centre has opened today following a deep clean

The patient, from Surrey, is understood to be a man who was treated at Haslemere Health Centre before being transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London. The health centre has opened today following a deep clean

Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50 per cent compared with a year ago, and in Italy – which has reported more than 1,000 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia – hotel bookings are falling and premier Giuseppe Conte raised the spectre of recession.

The Swiss government banned events with more than 1,000 people, while at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, basins of holy water were emptied for fear of spreading germs.

Even in isolated North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger anti-virus efforts, saying there will be ‘serious consequences’ if the illness spreads to the country.

The North has yet to report its first infection but it has been pushing a tough campaign it has described as a matter of ‘national existence’. The country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilised tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

People wearing face masks in Trafalgar Square, London, as the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wales and two more were identified in England - bringing the total number in the UK to 20

People wearing face masks in Trafalgar Square, London, as the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wales and two more were identified in England – bringing the total number in the UK to 20

The head of the World Health Organisation on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was ‘very high’, while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the ‘window of opportunity’ for containing the virus was narrowing.

In a report published on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese health officials said the death rate from Covid-19 was 1.4 per cent, based on 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China.

Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate ‘may be considerably less than 1 per cent’, US health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal. That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins Sars or Mers.  

Evidence from China shows older people are far more likely to fall seriously ill with coronavirus, with one in seven (15 percent) of those over 80 known to have contracted it dying. By contrast, the average death rate among all confirmed cases is around two per cent.

WHO spokeswoman Dr Margaret Harris said that consequently older people needed to consider changing their day-to-day routines because ‘avoiding catching this virus is the best outcome’. Advising them to stay off tubes, trains and buses, she said: ‘If you are on a transport system, you are likely to be squeezed in with other people.’

Football matches and other sports events were also best avoided because of close proximity to those who might be harbouring the virus. 

People should even think twice about going to busy shops and supermarkets, she said. ‘Rather than going to the shops to get things, think about everything you can order remotely,’ she urged.

While the advice might appear draconian, Dr Harris said droplets containing coronavirus could travel as far as 10ft (3m) from a cough or sneeze – so ideally people should keep that distance from others. 

Instead of going to their GP for routine matters like non-urgent appointments, blood test results and repeat prescriptions, they should use the phone or have a video consultation instead.

‘If you can do a remote consultation, that’s brilliant,’ she said, as surgeries and hospitals were more likely than other places to be visited by those sick with the virus.

However, Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said WHO’s advice was overly cautious for the UK right now. 

She said: ‘This is sensible advice for these groups in countries that are seeing rapid rises in cases and where the majority are occurring in-country. In the UK, we do not currently have evidence of sustained and widespread transmission within the community – all but one of our cases has travelled overseas.’ 

She added UK experts were considering what the most appropriate actions for the public to take would be if we start to see more cases passed on within the UK.

In the coming days, Ministers will rush in emergency laws to tackle coronavirus, enabling, for example, lessons to take place outside schools. 

But WHO is pressing countries to go much further, to quarantine whole areas in the event of large-scale outbreaks just as China and Italy are doing. 

In a report published on Friday, WHO said the cordon sanitaire around Wuhan and neighbouring municipalities had ‘effectively prevented further exportation of infected individuals to the rest of the country’.

But WHO warned: ‘Much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset or materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain COVID-19 in China. These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimise transmission chains [of coronavirus] in humans.’

Microbiologist Professor Mark Fielder, of Kingston University, said he would back the radical measure if ‘community transmission’ of coronavirus really took off here.

He said: ‘It would be one of the things that would be useful. Because if people are carrying a virus… you want to limit them moving around if they become a threat to wider public health.’

Yet Prof Fielder said there was currently ‘no reason to suggest’ UK authorities could not keep containing coronavirus by isolating cases.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University Medical School, said ‘heavy-handed’ lockdowns should not be used as the economic and social impact was severe. ‘People should be asked to self-isolate,’ he said.

However, the numbers show coronavirus is quickly going global. In the last week, total European cases have shot up from 54 to 1,428.

In more than half of the UK’s confirmed cases – 12 of 23 – the person caught coronavirus in Europe, one of those on UK soil. 

Of the latest three cases, two contracted the virus in Italy and the third in Asia, said Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty.

Meanwhile, Britons at the quarantined H10 Costa Adeje Hotel in Tenerife who test negative for the virus will be free to return to the UK, holiday operator Tui said.

In France, ministers said meetings of more than 5,000 people would be ‘temporarily banned’, meaning today’s Paris half-marathon is cancelled. 

And in the US, a total of 22 people are fighting the virus. Four are ‘very ill’, President Trump said. He added the US government is amassing tens of millions of masks.



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