UK coronavirus cases rise to 90

UK coronavirus cases rise to 90 amid fears the illness is spreading inside the NHS as at least four staff and a patient have now been diagnosed in London, Brighton, Carlisle and Maidstone

  • A total of 90 people in the UK have been diagnosed with the coronavirus 
  • Three new cases were announced by the Scottish Government this morning 
  • At least four of them are reported to be NHS staff and others have hospital links
  • The Government yesterday announced it would stop daily updates of locations
  • Worldwide, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed and 3,286 are dead

Fears the coronavirus is spreading inside the NHS are growing after three new cases were confirmed to have been found in or closely linked to hospitals yesterday. 

At least four NHS staff have caught the illness, which has now infected 90 people in the UK, along with two other people in hospitals and a medical student in London.

Three new cases were confirmed this morning by the Scottish Government, in people from Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, and Grampian, bringing the country’s total to six. 

Healthcare workers are at particular risk of contracting and spreading the virus because they come into close contact with sick perople and meet a lot of different patients, visitors and colleagues.

King’s College Hospital, in London, yesterday put parts of its buildings in lockdown after two coronavirus cases were discovered there, and another was diagnosed at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

One of the first people in the UK to be diagnosed with the virus was a GP working in Brighton, and another hospital doctor in nearby Worthing contracted the illness. 

NHS workers in Carlisle and Maidstone and a patient and a student at King’s College Hospital have also all been diagnosed.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, today said it is ‘highly likely’ that the virus is now spreading inside the UK among people who haven’t travelled.

He added that more cases will appear in the UK and it is unlikely that authorities will be able to prevent an outbreak at some point.

But Professor Whitty said he did not expect cases to be worse among healthcare workers because they would be told by bosses not to work through illness and to go home at the first sight of an infection. 

A patient at King’s College Hospital, London, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, along with a virology student who was studying there

A patient was diagnosed with the virus at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. The Manchester Evening News reports that the city had five cases confirmed yesterday

There are now 90 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Britain, after three more were confirmed in Scotland this morning

UK chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, today told Parliament’s Health & Social Care Committee that it’s ‘highly likely’ that the coronavirus is now spreading inside the UK

A batch of three new coronavirus infections in Scotland today doubled the country’s tally to six.

The Scottish Government announced that the people who had been diagnosed were ‘clinically well’ and receiving ‘appropriate care’. They are all known contacts of existing cases and are believed to have caught the virus inside the UK. 

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, reassured the public that Scotland is well prepared for an outbreak and said: ‘Clinicians are now conducting contact tracing, the process of gathering details of the places those who have tested positive visited and the people they have been in contact with.

‘Close contact involves either face-to-face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person. 

‘The risk is very low in situations where someone may have passed a patient on the street or in a shop.

‘Health protection teams will contact those who are at risk from the current cases – those who are not contacted are not at risk.’   

UK cases of coronavirus will keep rising and infections are taking place between Britons, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said today.

Professor Whitty said hopes of containing the virus largely in its origin site in China were ‘slim to zero’.

He warned ‘community transmission’ was happening in the UK, and the government’s focus had moved from the ‘contain’ phase to focus on efforts to ‘delay’ the spread.

Speaking to Parliament’s Health Select Committee about coronavirus cases in the UK, Professor Chris Whitty said today: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up’

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Prof Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up. 

‘There are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission, either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

‘That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.’

He added: ‘It is here at very low levels at this point in time, but that should be the working assumption on which we go forward. 

Asked by chairman Jeremy Hunt whether the government had shifted its focus fro ‘contain’ to ‘delay’, Prof Whitty said: We are now basically mainly delay.’ 

There are now 90 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK after Scotland declared three more.

Overall, current figures show 80 cases in England, six in Scotland, one in Wales and three in Northern Ireland.

Exact whereabouts of many UK patients are unknown but 80 are known to be in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and one in Wales. 

The Department of Health in England yesterday changed tack and announced it would no longer give running updates about where each patient is nor where they caught the infection.

Officials were accused of ‘secrecy’ and one critic said the public should be given as much information as possible so they could protect themselves – authorities in Singapore reveal the exact street where each case is diagnosed.

As the number of coronavirus cases is surging in the UK – it has risen from 13 to 90 in the past week – there are increasing concerns about the NHS’s ability to cope if an epidemic breaks out.

Calls to the NHS 111 helpline are up 40 per cent on the same time last year.

More than 442,000 calls were placed to the 24/7 helpline between February 24 and March 1 – an average of 63,000 each day.

In comparison, the figure for the same week last year was just 320,000 – or 45,000 calls per day.

The NHS today said call handlers are working ’round the clock’ to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Disgruntled patients have complained they have waited four hours for a call back or in the case of one IT worker, four days.

The NHS has already announced it would plough an extra £1.7million into the service to recruit an additional 500 staff, and set up a new coronavirus advice website.     

One of the confirmed cases is a female NHS worker in her thirties in Cumbria who caught the virus while on a family holiday in Italy. 

Three other workers in the health service are known to be among the 90. 

A GP in Brighton and a hospital doctor in nearby Worthing were among the first cases to be diagnosed in the UK in early February, after they went on holiday together with a man who caught it in Singapore.

And an NHS employee working out of offices in Maidstone, Kent, was also confirmed to have caught the disease. 

Professor Whitty said NHS staff would be urged to be extra careful about their own health and stay home from work if they felt ill.

He said he believed infections among NHS workers would be ‘similar to other areas’ because staff would be told to curb their usual habits of working through illness.

‘NHS staff are remarkably determined to come and serve their professions,’ he told ministers today.

‘They may come in with quite significant feelings of unwellness… We would definitely not wish them to do that in this situation.’ 

Asked whether he thought the NHS could cope with the pressure of an outbreak, Professor Whitty added that he expected it to fare better than hospitals in Wuhan.

He said: ‘At a peak, like Hubei, for short period of time their system was overwhelmed. 

‘We would not expect our system to be overwhelmed but would expect it to be radically changed.

‘[This is] one of the reasons we are hoping to see if people who are recently retired might, for a very short period of time, come in to fill gaps.

‘For sure, nobody would claim that we will have the optimal number of nurses but the system will flex around that.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on This Morning today when he said life will go on as usual for the majority of people in the UK, and again hammered home advice for people to wash their hands as often as they can

A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon this morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser 

A woman who works at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, is one of at least four NHS workers to have caught the coronavirus already. She caught the illness in Italy and travelled home through Germany 

Eight of the new coronavirus cases – three in England, four in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland – caught the deadly infection in the UK, sparking fears the virus is rapidly spreading across the home nations.

The ripple effects of the spreading virus started to be felt among businesses in London and across the UK as companies sent employees home and locked down their offices.  

Sony and Nike yesterday closed offices in London and Sunderland ‘out of an abundance of caution’ as they order deep cleans of their buildings after employees were potentially exposed to the virus.

US accountancy firm Deloitte confirmed an employee from its London office was diagnosed with the coronavirus after travelling to Asia, and Goldsmith’s University confirmed a visitor to its student halls had fallen ill, sending tremors through the student community.

An Apple store in Belfast was seen being deep-cleaned by staff in hazmat suits yesterday – at least one case has been diagnosed in the Northern Irish city – and an office building in London’s Mayfair was closed.  

The office of Method Investments and Advisory Ltd was deserted after the building management allegedly told staff that somebody based there had been infected.

Government officials have been criticised for changing their policy on releasing the locations of coronavirus patients in England.

It had been doing so with every update until yesterday, and the Department of Health said it will now only provide weekly updates on Fridays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen leaving the back of Downing Street this morning. Since he launched his coronavirus battle plan on Tuesday the number of confirmed infections in the UK has more than doubled from 40 to 90

Cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in all corners of the UK, in at least 10 counties in England as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All NHS hospitals now have dedicated coronavirus isolation pods where suspected cases can speak to a specialist on the phone away from public areas

NHS 111 HELPLINE CALLS SURGE AMID CORONAVIRUS TENSION

Calls to NHS 111 are up 40 per cent on last year with thousands of anxious Britons ringing for advice about coronavirus.

More than 442,000 calls were placed to the 24/7 helpline between February 24 and March 1 – an average of 63,000 each day.

In comparison, the figure for the same week last year was just 320,000 – or 45,000 calls per day.

The NHS today said call handlers are working ’round the clock’ to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Disgruntled patients have complained they have waited four hours for a call-back or, in the case of one IT worker, four days.

The NHS has already announced it would plough an extra £1.7million into the service to recruit an additional 500 staff, and set up a new coronavirus advice website.

Professor Chris Whitty told the government’s Health and Social Care Committee this morning that, in future, it intends to provide rolling data and even a map.

A former regional director for Public Health England, Professor Paul Ashford, told The Guardian the government needed to be more up-front with its data.

He said: ‘They should be sharing the data as much as possible, to make the public equal partners in tackling this and help them make decisions about their own lives.

‘The public needs to know if it’s in their area on a daily basis.’ 

In his meeting with the health committee today, Professor Whitty said he expects the number of people infected in the UK to increase and that it was unlikely that officials would be able to prevent an outbreak.  

He warned ‘community transmission’ was happening in the UK, and the government’s focus had moved from the ‘contain’ phase to focus on efforts to ‘delay’ the spread. 

Professor Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up. 

‘There are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission.

‘Either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

‘That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.’

A person wearing a hazmat suit and gas mask was pictured at Nike’s headquarters in Sunderland, yesterday, where offices were closed for deep cleaning after the company said employees may have come into contact with people with the coronavirus

Staff in hazmat suits were seen carrying out a deep clean at the Apple store in Belfast. There has been at least one case confirmed in the Northern Irish city

A member of staff at accountancy firm Deloitte tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from Asia (pictured, Deloitte’s London office on New Street Square, Holborn). The office building is undergoing deep cleaning and the patient is now in hospital

The government’s battle plan has been divided into four stages – ‘Contain’, ‘delay’, ‘research’ and ‘mitigate’ 

VIRGIN ATLANTIC TAKES 20% PAY CUT AS AIRLINE HITS VIRUS TURBULENCE 

Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive will take a 20 per cent pay cut as coronavirus fears continue to batter airlines across the world.

Shai Weiss’s salary will drop between April and July. The rest of the leadership team will have a 15 per cent pay cut over the four months. 

The British airline also revealed it will waive fees for customers wanting to change the dates of flights booked in March.

And it postponed plans to introduce its new long-haul flight from London Heathrow to Sao Paulo, Brazil, because of the decline. 

Virgin, owned by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, claimed the ‘sensible steps’ would ‘ensure we are in a stronger position’ once the coronavirus crisis is over.

The Financial Times reports Virgin Atlantic suffered a 40 per cent drop in customer demand compared with March last year.

Virgin Atlantic’s route to Sao Paulo was meant to launch at the end of the March, but is now being put off until October.

Damning figures from the International Air Transport Association yesterday showed airlines have suffered their worst month in a decade because of the outbreak.

The group’s chief economist Brian Pearce said airlines are now in ‘a crisis zone’, with more than 95,000 cases recorded across the world.

He warned passenger numbers are at their lowest rate since the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud disaster of April 2010.

Government officials have warned that up to 20 per cent of the UK’s workforce could be off sick if a full-blown epidemic breaks out on home soil.

But, in a massive boost for workers, it was yesterday announced that people will get statutory sick pay on the first day of their illness instead of the fourth, amid fears employees may not get paid if they take time off because of coronavirus.  

In central London today, above Louis Vuitton’s headquarters, a video producer, who works in the building part-time, tweeted: ‘Looks like New Bond street offices have Covid 19 today. My building manager BNPPRE_UK send email about multiple confirmed cases. Everyone advised to leave and work from home. Coronavirus.’ 

A Method Investments employee later corroborated the reports that BNP Paribas Real Estate, the building management, had advised staff to leave the office after ‘a case of coronavirus was confirmed.’ 

BNP Paribas Real Estate has not yet confirmed the reports. 

The firm’s public relations chief, Kate Oliver, said: ‘BNP Paribas Real Estate manages the common areas of this building and for all our managed spaces we are following the official advice of PHE regarding anything related to COVID-19. 

‘Separately the occupiers will follow their own policies and procedures for their occupied space.’ 

England’s chief medical officer this morning warned the coronavirus will kill Britons and added an epidemic was ‘highly likely’ as the outbreak in Britain continues to accelerate. Cases have jumped 70 per cent overnight.

Professor Chris Whitty’s chilling message for Britain’s 66million residents came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted yesterday people’s lives may have to be put on hold for up to three months to fight the deadly virus.  

A commuter wears a face mask as he crosses London Bridge in the capital this morning

Photos taken today show brave nurses donning face masks and protective glasses while swabbing patients in their nose and mouth through an open car window in London

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out in Northern Ireland, where nurses were seen practicing the procedure at Antrim Area Hospital in Co Antrim this morning 

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES ‘COULD START HUMAN TRIALS NEXT MONTH’ 

The first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine are expected to begin next month at a university in London and pharmaceutical company in the US.

Scientists at Imperial College in the English capital have been trialling their attempt at a vaccine on animals since mid-February.

And they could move onto human trials – the last phase of development before a drug can be used – as soon as April.

Meanwhile, US pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Inovio have also said they plan to start their own human trials next month.

The coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19 and has infected more than 94,000 people around the world, cannot currently be cured or prevented.

People who catch it have to be isolated and wait for their body to fight off the illness, with medical help if they need it for symptoms or more serious infection.

A working vaccine could stop the bug in its tracks – some experts think it could become a permanent fixture in human society in the same way colds and flu are.

Imperial College has been working on its vaccine since the middle of January when Chinese scientists released the genetic information about the virus.

If low-level human trials are successful, the researchers will then move on to testing the vaccine in the real world where people are at risk of infection.

Passing all those tests could mean the vaccine is available to the public as early as next year.

US pharmaceutical company, Inovio, said it could have a million doses available by the end of the year and Moderna said it will also start human trials in April with aims of fast development.

Speaking on a podcast, Imperial College scientist Professor Robin Shattock said his team and others are creating vaccines ‘at a speed that’s never been realised before’.

He said: ‘Most vaccines would take five years in the discovery phase and at least one to two years to manufacture and get into clinical trials.

Under the government’s ‘battle plan’, schools could be shut, millions forced to work from home and people asked to stop eating out, going to the pub or shopping in a bid to keep them away from others.

Official disaster projections suggest as many as half a million people could die if the disease isn’t controlled, but evidence from China – where fewer than 3,000 have died – suggests the real figure would be a fraction of this.  

Coronavirus fears have now gripped Britain with nearly 3,000 people getting tested for coronavirus yesterday – the highest daily toll since the first two cases were diagnosed in York on January 31.

Commuters have now resorted to wearing storage boxes and plastic bags over their heads to avoid catching the disease, while supermarket shelves have been emptied as Brits stockpile hand gels, loo roll and cleaning sprays. 

The other 30 cases confirmed today – 29 in England and one in Scotland – were infected abroad, with most thought to have been struck down in Italy, the centre of Europe’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

Officials in Northern Ireland revealed two new cases this afternoon, saying one patient caught the virus in northern Italy while the other was infected by a carrier in the UK.

Scotland’s government confirmed one of its two new patients had also travelled to Italy, while the other had come into contact with a known positive case in the UK. 

Leading scientists today admitted the cases spreading within the UK was of ‘concern’ and said it was ‘right to be concerned’, adding: ‘We can probably expect to see an increase in the number of cases in the forthcoming days and weeks. 

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, today admitted the world ‘tried very hard to stop this virus altogether’ but had failed. He told the BBC Today programme: ‘You can see from the statistics, the number of countries affected that that battle is really over.’

More than 80 nations across the world have now confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Faroe Islands and Poland today became the latest countries to be struck – only a handful of European nations have not recorded cases.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘We’re now moving towards trying to slow the spread to allow the health systems to cope and try to mitigate the impact of the epidemic.’

He added the UK was in the ‘early stage’ of an epidemic and said time is running out to contain the crisis by reducing the spread with drastic measures.

Professor Ferguson did not specify what sort of measures would be needed – but Italy, which is battling its own crisis, has urged residents to avoid kissing and is considering closing all schools for a fortnight.  

Potential coronavirus patients are tested at a drive-thru centre in London today as part of a city-wide bid to stop the infection from spreading at hospitals

A test centre has opened at Parsons Green, west London, where people who believe they have contracted Covid-19 can be checked while still sat in their own cars

Infectious disease experts today said the new cases suggest there could be ‘local transmission within the UK’ – the World Health Organization already admits the virus is being spread between humans on British soil. 

Dr Stephen Griffin, of the University of Leeds, said: ‘It is right to be concerned and prepared, but it is not a time to panic. The number of cases remains small compared to the UK population and the current strategy of containment is working by and large. 

‘Nevertheless, we can probably expect to see an increase in the number of cases in the forthcoming days and weeks; the question is whether cases of unknown origin may start to become more significant.’ 

In an interview with Sky News this morning, Professor Whitty said: ‘I think it is… almost certain there will be more cases in the UK, probably a lot more cases as the Prime Minister laid out,and we would expect some deaths, yes.’

Professor Whitty told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that people wearing masks in public – including on the London Underground – will have little effect on whether or not they catch coronavirus. 

The individual viruses which cause the disease are so small that they pass through many masks and people may be more likely to get it by touching a contaminated surface and then their face.

And he told presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid: ‘It’s much more likely than not that we’re going to deal with a significant epidemic.

‘If people have got an infection and are being moved around a hospital then wearing masks is a good thing to do but for people just walking the streets it’s not going to have a significant effect.’

Piers Morgan pointed out that those who are wearing the ineffective items might also leave fewer masks available for the NHS.

It comes after it was revealed today that a hospital worker in Cumbria is one of two people in the county to have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

The woman, who is in her thirties, is understood to have worked at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary. The trust said she self-isolated immediately after returning home from a trip to Italy with flu-like symptoms. 

Colin Cox, director of public health at Cumbria County Council, said another Carlisle resident had also caught the virus. The News & Star newspaper says this is her partner. 

It comes after a woman who works at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary (pictured) tested positive for the coronavirus. The woman, thought to be in her 30s and live in Carlisle, caught the virus on holiday in Germany

THREE QUARTERS OF BRITS WOULD SUPPORT QUARANTINING ENTIRE UK CITIES TO COMBAT THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS

Britons overwhelmingly support quarantining entire cities if it would halt the spread of coronavirus, a new poll reveals today.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of people thought that shutting off hundreds of thousands of people in the way that Wuhan has been isolated in China, would be a ‘correct’ move by the Government.

Only 26 per cent thought that the step would be an ‘over-reaction’ according to a new poll by IpsosMori today.

The findings are in line with other nations including the United States, Russia, Australia and Canada. 

However Italy, which has seen multiple deaths from the outbreak, saw the lowest support for quarantining. 

It is looking less and less likely that the UK will replicate the isolation that has been seen in Wuhan.

Because the disease is already in the country and would be hard to contain in one place at this stage, medics believe that the social and economic cost of quarantining thousands of people would far outstrip any benefit. 

Anna Quigley, research director at Ipsos Mori, said: ‘These results clearly show that the UK public recognise the potential impact of the virus on the country, and support strong measures to deal with it.

‘Perceptions of the government’s response have worsened over the past two weeks and it will be interesting to see whether this shifts following the release of the Government’s action plan.

‘It is, however, encouraging that the public still believe health services are doing a good job.’

Mr Cox said the council was working with Public Health England (PHE) to get in touch with anyone who had been in contact with the two people affected. Neither have been named. 

Three other coronavirus patients are known to be NHS workers – an A&E doctor in Worthing, a locum GP in Brighton and an NHS office worker in Kent who was diagnosed yesterday. 

Fears were today raised that two primary school pupils at a primary school in Winchester, Hampshire, may have caught the coronavirus while in a taxi.

Both students have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days because they travelled in a car that an infected patient had been in. Health officials say their risk is ‘very low’.   

Elsewhere, a primary school in South Ockendon, Essex has closed for a deep clean after a family of a pupil travelled to one of the quarantined areas of Italy. 

Last night it was revealed the family at the heart of the UK’s outbreak are a husband and wife whose son attends a £5,000-a-term school in Surrey. 

The couple were confirmed as having the infection. Other parents who came into contact with the pair have been placed in self isolation.

Their son, who attends St Edmund’s in Hindhead, Surrey, has also been placed in self isolation – but has not yet tested positive for the fast spreading virus. 

Elsewhere in the UK, potential coronavirus patients are being tested at drive-thru centres in London as part of a city-wide bid to stop the infection from spreading at hospitals.

A test centre has opened at Parsons Green, west London, where people who believe they have contracted COVID-19 can be checked while still sat in their own cars.

Photos taken today show brave nurses donning face masks and protective glasses while swabbing patients in their nose and mouth through an open car window.

The Central London Community Healthcare NHS trust launched the scheme this week. If successful, it will be rolled out more widely across England. 

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out in Northern Ireland, where nurses were seen practicing the procedure at Antrim Area Hospital in Co Antrim this morning.

Only patients referred by NHS 111 are currently being sent to the drive thru service, with potential patients thought to be seriously ill excluded. 

It comes as stock markets in Europe opened tentatively at the start of trading today as investors continued to consider the US Federal Reserve cutting interest rates. 


Govan, Glasgow: The fruit and veg section and the bakery section of this Scottish Asda store was bare last night


Left, Osterley, west London: There is barely a bottle of handsoap in this branch of Tesco. Right, Pimlico, London: There was not a single bag of pasta available in this Sainsbury’s store last night

ALL 25 BINGO PLAYERS AT A BRITISH LEGION CLUB ARE FORCED TO SELF-ISOLATE AFTER ONE CATCHES THE KILLER CORONAVIRUS

All bingo-playing members of a British Legion club in Surrey have been ordered to self-isolate after one caught coronavirus from a family member at the centre of the Surrey outbreak

All bingo-playing members of a British Legion club have been ordered to self-isolate after one caught coronavirus from a family member at the centre of the Surrey outbreak.

Public Health England ordered the 25 people from the Hindhead branch who attended last Tuesday night’s draw to remain at home and watch out for any symptoms.

Officials alerted the club-goers this Monday after it emerged that one of the players had become infected by a close relative.

The infected person is one of four people who have been struck down with coronavirus in the Surrey outbreak.

MailOnline revealed earlier this week that two of those affected are a husband and wife whose son attends a £5,000 a term prep school in Surrey.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index of major blue-chip companies rose 94 points or 1.4 per cent this morning to 6,813 points compared with the close yesterday.

It was the third straight day of rises for the index, after coronavirus panic wiped more than £251billion off the value of Britain’s biggest companies last week.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index retreated 0.2 per cent to 11,963 points, while the Paris CAC 40 also lost 0.2 per cent to 5,381. 

Interest rates in Britain could be cut in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with Bank of England governor Mark Carney indicating it might be on the cards. 

MailOnline readers have shared their pictures of empty shelves across the country as shoppers continued to ignore Government advice not to panic buy.

Stockpiling of household goods means that many aisles in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Lidl and Aldi up and down the UK are looking increasingly desolate.

Sections for hand soap and disinfectant, nappies and baby wipes as well as dried goods such as pasta and rice appear to be the most decimated.

Britain’s supermarkets have also been accused of setting up ‘doomsday’ displays in stores and online aimed at worried stockpiling ‘survivalist’ shoppers. 

All the best selling suggested items on Amazon’s Fresh website in grocery and beauty all appear to similar items being bought in bulk across the UK. 

It comes as ministers launched a public information campaign urging the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK. 

The drive is designed to change people’s attitude to hygiene, amid fears coronavirus could become a seasonal problem. 

Yesterday Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s ‘battle plan’ for dealing with a major outbreak in this country, which experts believe is increasingly likely.

Under the plans, troops could be deployed on the streets, infected patients not suffering from complications may be sent home from hospital, and non-urgent NHS operations could be cancelled to free up space in hospitals. 

The PM also revealed schools could be shut and children allowed to do coursework and sit exams from their home to stop the spread. 

But he maintained that this would only be worst-case scenario and said schools should not close unless instructed to by Public Health England.  

It comes after the news that a breath test that instantly spots patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists.

They say the technology could be used to rapidly screen people in airports. And it could also be used in GP surgeries, pharmacies or ambulances, giving an instant result.

The technology, developed by a team at Northumbria University in Newcastle, needs further testing but experts believe it could be quickly change the way the virus is spotted around the world. 

The Government is launching a renewed public information campaign urging people to wash their hands to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Adverts will seek to drive home the message that regular hand-washing is the single most important action individuals can take in the fight against Covid-19.

TODAY: The FTSE 100 index rose 94 points or 1.4 per cent this morning to 6,813 points

THIS WEEK: The FTSE 100 has been rising this week – and is up today for the third day in a row

A huge public information campaign is urging the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

REVEALED: THE TRUTH ABOUT FACE MASKS 

Although people have been pictured wearing them all over the world since the outbreak began, scientists say surgical face masks are not very good at protecting people from catching coronavirus.

The masks are considered effective for healthcare workers treating virus patients worn along with protective gloves, goggles and gowns.

But for the average person not wearing the full hazmat suits, the surgical masks will only slightly lower the chance of catching the illness.

This is because the individual viruses are so small they can pass through the filters of the mask, which also do not fully seal off the nose and mouth. 

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Surgical masks also leave the wearer’s eyes exposed – and there’s a chance the virus can infect that way. 

‘They might help, but it’s not clear they give you total protection.’

Some wearers also report touching their face more frequently when wearing a mask, often to readjust it or pull it down when eating. 

This is a problem because the viruses survive on surfaces and are picked up by the next person who touches it, who then touches their face and transfers the virus into their mouth, nose or eyes. 

Current advice from Public Health England is to wear a mask at home if you are caring for a sick person – and if you get sick, to stop you infecting others. 

The NHS may give you some if they tell you to self-quarantine.

But don’t buy large quantities of masks. There is a global shortage and the close-fitting ‘respirator’ style ones, like N95 or FP2, which are similar to those worn by builders to protect them from toxic fumes, should be saved for the healthcare workers who will really need them.

But they may reduce the risk of an infected person passing it on…

Scientists do also say anyone who is already infected could reduce their risk of passing the virus on by wearing a mask.

They may be able to block droplets carrying the virus from being coughed out into the air around them.

The virus infects someone by taking hold in flesh inside their airways and lungs after it is breathed in. Because of this, mucous and saliva contain the viruses and are infectious. 

Professor Whitty’s comments come after the NHS yesterday announced it had hiked its threat level to the highest possible ‘national incident’ after 12 more British patients tested positive for the infection.

Health chiefs have declared the epidemic a ‘level four incident’, which grants them emergency powers to take control of local hospitals.  

Coronavirus was ratcheted up to level four status in January, but the move was only confirmed yesterday as the government tried to calm public concern by unveiling a four-pronged strategy to tackle the growing crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference yesterday with Professor Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, to launch the official action plan.

Troops could be deployed on the streets, infected patients who are not suffering from complications could be sent home from hospital, and non-urgent NHS operations could be cancelled to free up space in overwhelmed hospitals. 

The PM also revealed schools could be shut and children allowed to do coursework and sit exams from their home to stop the spread. But he maintained that this would only be worst-case scenario and said schools should not close unless instructed to by Public Health England. 

Mr Johnson said the government would take all ‘necessary and reasonable steps’ to contain the coronavirus, but appealed for the public to keep ‘going about our business as usual’.

He said: ‘I do think that this is a national challenge. The potential is there for this to be something that our country has to get through.

‘But I have absolutely no doubt that we have the resources, we have the health service to get through it.’

The 28-page ‘action plan’ was agreed at the first emergency Cobra meeting to be chaired by the PM on Monday. 

The report stresses the response is still in the ‘containment’ phase, and explained there are four stages – contain, delay, research and mitigate.

But experts fear they will have to shift to ‘delay’ tactics – effectively damage limitation – within days or weeks amid growing outbreaks across Europe.

More than 2,500 people have now been diagnosed in Italy, which is in the grip of the second worst outbreak outside of China, and hundreds of patients have been discovered in Germany and France. 

Poland today declared its first case of the coronavirus, following Ukraine yesterday.

The only European countries without infections are now Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Modlova, Turkey and Cyprus.   

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility has been set up in Parsons Green, west London, where people can go for a swab test after being referred by NHS 111

Dr Joanne Medhurst, an NHS medical director said: ‘We’ve set up the ‘drive through’ service to make sure people in our community can get safe, convenient and quick checks for coronavirus, as part of NHS efforts to keep everyone safe’

NHS sites across the UK are on high alert for the spread of coronavirus as the outbreak escalates. Pictured: Isolation pods at the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands


One woman wore a plastic storage container over her head as she rode a bus, believed to be in London (left). Somewhere else in the UK a man tried to cover his head with a Tesco bag (right)


Cleaners in protective suits were seen disinfecting an Apple Store in Belfast in an apparent ‘deep clean’. There has been one case of coronavirus diagnosed in Belfast, in a woman who caught it in Italy

THE WORLD’S BATTLE WITH CORONAVIRUS IS NOW OVER, LEADING SCIENTIST ADMITS 

The world’s battle with coronavirus is now over, a leading scientist today declared amid the rampant spread of the deadly infection.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, admitted the world ‘tried very hard to stop this virus altogether’.

But he told the BBC Today programme: ‘You can see from the statistics, the number of countries affected that that battle is really over.’

More than 80 nations across the world have now confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Faroe Islands and Poland today became the latest countries to be struck – only a handful of European nations have not recorded cases.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘We’re now moving towards trying to slow the spread to allow the health systems to cope and try to mitigate the impact of the epidemic.’

He added the UK was in the ‘early stage’ of an epidemic and said time is running out to contain the crisis by reducing the spread with drastic measures.

Professor Ferguson did not specify what sort of measures would be needed – but Italy, which is battling its own crisis, has urged residents to avoid kissing.

The Government’s action plan states that the ‘vast majority’ of cases will have only mild-to-moderate effects on individuals, but points out that the virus is highly infectious.

‘As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that Covid 19 has the potential to spread extensively,’ the document says.

‘The current data seems to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it seems more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.’

‘The potential is there for this to be something that our country has to get through. But I have absolutely no doubt that we have the resources, we have the health service to get through it.’

The plan said that in the event of mass infections the Government ‘will aim to minimise the social and economic impact, subject to keeping people safe’.

There would be ‘population distancing strategies’ such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, and reducing the number of large scale gatherings to slow the spread of the disease.

Pensioners would be advised to stay away from events such as VE Day commemorations to avoid putting themselves at risk. However, experts say that an infected person is as likely to pass on the virus to 12 people in a pub as in a 70,000 seater stadium.

Police ‘would concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order’ if forces suffer ‘a significant loss of officers and staff.’

Meanwhile, the armed forces could be called upon to ‘backfill’ gaps in emergency services and provide other assistance if required.

‘The Ministry of Defence has put in place plans to ensure the delivery of its operations in the UK and overseas. There are also well-practiced arrangements for Defence to support to civil authorities if requested,’ the document says.

The police could be asked to enforce road and building closures, and the Army could be drafted in to enforce lockdowns where necessary.

An empty passageway in Venice which would often be heaving with tourist, but is now deserted because of the virus outbreak 

Some gondoliers who usually face high demand from the visitors’ 30million annual visitors have been left with little to do

A handful of tourists walk in St Mark’s Square in Venice last week, some of them wearing face masks, with the historic city largely deserted because of the coronavirus outbreak 

SICK PAY TO BE GIVEN TO WORKERS STAYING AT HOME BECAUSE OF CORONAVIRUS FEARS FROM THE FIRST DAY 

Statutory sick pay will be available to workers staying at home with possible coronavirus infections from the first day of illness, Boris Johnson has announced. 

Under emergency legislation to halt the spread of COVID-19, the Prime Minister said payments will be moved forward from the fourth day of sickness under current rules. 

The Government had been under pressure to introduce measures to compensate employees who are following health advice in not turning up for work. 

Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said individuals who self-isolate are ‘helping to protect all of us by slowing the spread of the virus’. 

‘If they stay at home and if we ask people to self isolate they may lose out financially,’ he told the Commons. 

‘So I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules and I think that’s the right way forward. 

‘Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing.’ 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the announcement but pressed the Prime Minister on whether it would apply to workers not entitled to statutory sick pay so they would not have to make the ‘terrible choice between health and hardship’. 

Mr Johnson said he was ‘very much aware’ of issues faced by the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts, adding that ‘some of them will be entitled to statutory sick pay, a great many’.

The report also highlighted the threat to the NHS, which could come under extreme pressure from a wave of a cases.

Under mitigation plans, non-coronavirus patients could be discharged early from hospital to recuperate at home, and routine operations postponed. Recently retired doctors, nurses and other staff could be brought back to help increase capacity.

A ‘worst case scenario’ would see 80 per cent of the UK population contract the virus, with up to a fifth of employees unable to work in ‘peak weeks’ – predicted to be in three months’ time.  

Scientists are still hoping that, if rapid spread can be staved off until the summer, warmer weather will help, but are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of avoiding a major outbreak in the UK. 

It comes as online travel agent Travel Republic today closed its office in London after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus.

The company said its premises on London Road in Norbiton, south London, would be shut to staff while they undergo a deep clean.

It added that the patient was receiving medical attention and all staff have been told to ring NHS 111 if they are concerned or feel unwell.     

A spokeswoman for the company said: ‘We can confirm that a member of staff based at our London Road offices in Norbiton received a positive test for the Covid-19 virus yesterday.

‘They are now receiving medical attention. As a precaution, we have closed our offices today while a deep clean is undertaken and we receive further advice from the relevant authorities.

‘All staff have been notified and encouraged to contact the NHS 111 if they are concerned or feel unwell. 

‘Our primary concern at this time is the health of our staff, and we’re working with the authorities to ensure best practice guidelines are being followed.’

Meanwhile, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama cancelled all of its scheduled events until 11 March due to a teacher having the virus.

The unidentified man had come into contact with a ‘limited number’ of students last week, the school admitted in an email to staff and students.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama didn’t release any more information about the male teacher – but he is thought to teach music.

He was whisked off for treatment at London’s Royal Free Hospital, a specialist NHS centre for infectious diseases. 

In an email sent to staff and students, the school – ranked as one of the world’s best performing arts institutes – said he is ‘recovering well’. 

According to The Guardian, the note added: ‘He was present and teaching in one of the ancillary school buildings on one day last week. 

‘He came into contact with a limited number of students and we are working closely with those students to ensure that they receive urgent appropriate advice.’  

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

More than 3,200 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and over 94,000 have been infected. Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.

By February 25, around 80,000 people had been infected and some 2,700 had died. February 25 was the first day in the outbreak when fewer cases were diagnosed within China than in the rest of the world. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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