England’s deputy chief medical officer predicted “thousands” of coronavirus cases in Britain during an “epidemic spike”, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that the government was preparing “extensive preparations” to speed up the country’s response to disease.
Jenny Harries also defended the decision to delay the closure of schools and mass gatherings, saying that the government’s medical and scientific advisors were working on a “balanced response”.
A total of 373 people in the UK have so far proven positive for coronavirus, with an increase of 54 since Monday and an increase of 100 in two days. The Department of Health also confirmed Tuesday that a sixth British patient had died of the virus due to the underlying health conditions.
“We will have significant numbers in the way the country is not used to it,” Harries told BBC Radio 4 Today program. “We will see many thousands of people infected with the coronavirus; this is what we are seeing in other countries. “
He added: “If you have a new disease, the normal thing is that it will take off gradually. It will rise very quickly at some point and return again when it effectively depletes people in the population to infect. “
Johnson dismissed allegations that Britain should follow suit from other European countries that have taken more stringent and highly disruptive measures faster.
The prime minister is anxious to avoid panic over the outbreak and, on the advice of government medicine experts, is currently against the idea of closing schools, closing parliament and organizing sporting events in empty stadiums.
Of the new cases announced Tuesday, 30 were in London, bringing the total number of cases in the capital to 91.
The sixth person to die of coronavirus in England was treated in a hospital in Watford, 20 miles north of London. British medical chief Chris Whitty said in a statement that the patient was over eighty years old, had underlying conditions, and had contracted the disease in the UK.
Britain has said it is still in the “containment” phase of epidemic control, focusing on isolating individual cases while moving to a strategy to delay spread if a larger epidemic becomes inevitable.
On the contrary, the Italian government has placed the country under public health restrictions and all non-essential travel throughout Italy has been banned until early April.
Downing Street said on Tuesday that all Italians arriving in the UK were advised to isolate themselves and the government booked a hotel near Heathrow airport where people could stay. Chinese and South Korean arrivals to the UK have already isolated themselves from the hotel.
“There are facilities that are available for people who need to isolate themselves,” said a spokesman for number 10 on Tuesday. “We booked a facility and people stayed there.”
But speaking on Tuesday in the House of Commons, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, seemed to suggest that the government was taking a harder line on people who came to the UK from Italy. He said: “All those returning from Italy must self-isolate themselves for 14 days.
“This is in addition to our advice that anyone who has visited specific areas of northern Italy that had originally been locked up in the past two weeks should self-isolate for 14 days. We will do everything we can to protect people based on the best scientific advice. ”
But government officials suggested that self-isolation for those arriving from high-risk countries was voluntary and people were not forced to part ways.
Two meetings of the government’s Cobra emergency committee will be held this week to discuss the government’s response to the crisis.
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