Workers stand a LOT closer than two metres apart on crammed tube

Commute home from hell! Workers stand a LOT closer than two metres apart on crammed tube – so will mayor’s plan to scale back services make it worse?

  • Commuters were seen in packed rush hour train despite advice to stay at home 
  • Came after mayor Sadiq Khan said weekday services could be ‘scaled down’
  • This would hit the Underground, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail if brought in 

Workers stood a lot closer together than recommended as they made their way home on packed London Underground trains amid the coronavirus outbreak today.

The Government’s health experts have said people are at risk if they stand within two metres of a person infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday also warned people to avoid all non-essential travel and to work from home where possible.  

But many commuters have insisted on going to work and were seen at rush hour this afternoon being forced to stand close together in crowded carriages.

The photo came hours after mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned that London Tubes and trains may run a ‘scaled down’ service on weekdays from as early as this week – meaning that carriages could end up even more crowded.

And it also emerged that as many as 86 per cent of coronavirus patients may go undetected because their symptoms are so mild – meaning commuters could unwittingly be spreading the virus whilst not knowing they even have it. 

Workers stood a lot closer together than recommended as they made their way home on packed London Underground trains amid the coronavirus outbreak today

Mr Khan announced the possible change to Transport for London’s services during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. 

He said the Underground, Overground and Docklands Light Railway trains could see journeys reduced as thousands of commuters work from home.

The Mayor of London said the scaling down could begin as soon as this week and will also affect TfL Rail.

The photo came hours after mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned that London Tubes and trains may run a ‘scaled down’ service on weekdays from as early as this week – meaning that carriages could end up even more crowded 

The plans would see journeys on weekdays cut down to the numbers customers are used to having at the weekend. 

Mr Khan told the show: ‘What we may do over the course of next few days and weeks is go down to a Saturday Sunday service and maybe scale that down over the course of the next few days and weeks.’

A TFL spokesman added that they intend to match the number of trains with the ‘actual demand’ from commuters. 

They also said they had upped their cleaning regime on the transport network.   

It came after scientists at Columbia University in New York analysed the spread of the infection in China, before the outbreak spiralled out of control. 

The researchers found the thousands of undocumented infections drove the spread of the crisis, which saw most of China locked down.

And Number 10’s chief scientific adviser today suggested around 70,000 Brits could unknowingly be infected with the virus.

Sir Patrick Vallance claimed for every death in Britain – 71 have been announced so far – there is likely to be 1,000 positive cases. 

Official figures show almost 2,000 cases have been confirmed across the UK – but health chiefs are only currently testing patients in hospital.

It means Britain’s true coronavirus crisis is being masked, and the daily updates that are released by the Government are only the tip of the iceberg.  

Mr Khan also revealed today that despite requesting to attend the Government’s Cobra meetings over the last few weeks to help the capital cope with the Covid-19 crisis, he was only finally invited yesterday.

‘I’ve been asking to attend the Cobra meetings for weeks,’ he said. ‘For the first time yesterday morning we got call from downing street inviting us to Cobra.

‘We were told London is a few weeks ahead of rest of the country and way this virus is spreading is faster than government and ministers thought.’ 

Other plans that could be rolled out to help London cope with the coronavirus pandemic include subsidising hotels to take in the homeless, he added. 

‘I raised this point yesterday in reference to rough sleepers,’ he said. ‘There’s no reason at all bearing in mind record vacancies hotels and motels have that they shouldn’t be used to help homeless.’

He demanded more clarity from the Government on whether pubs should shut or remain open.

This morning, carriages in Manchester were seen almost empty as people stayed at home to avoid coronavirus 

The Government is currently advising the public to stay away from bars, pubs and restaurants.

Today Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that hundreds of billions of pounds-worth of loans would be offered to businesses who risk going bust.     

He and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they were acting like a ‘wartime government’ and would do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep the economy going.

Mr Sunak said he was ready to give support on a scale that was ‘unimaginable’ only a few weeks ago. ‘This is not a time for ideology or orthodoxy. This is a time to be bold,’ he said.

Some £330billion of loans to businesses will be guaranteed by the government – equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP – including a Bank of England ‘bridging’ scheme for big companies in the firing line, and up to £5million each for smaller firms.

Mr Sunak said there would be a cash grant of £25,000 for each small and medium sized business, and every retail, hospitality and leisure sector firm would be exempt from rates for a year.

But Mr Khan said that because the Prime Minister has not ordered the businesses to shut they are not able to claim lost earnings on insurance.  

‘One of the biggest concerns is the lack of clarity,’ Mr Khan said. ‘We’ve had now bold action to add people’s health we need bold action to help people’s livelihoods.

‘What I’m being told is because it’s not a ban they can’t claim for insurance. Many of these businesses rely on cash flow to pay wages – even a week’s closure means they can’t pay wages.’

He added: ‘My concern about the lack of support for businesses is that people may choose to work to keep food on table rather than self-isolate.’

London commuters have told how they are closing down their work-places and preparing to work from home as the Coronavirus pandemic takes hold.

Businessmen, accountants and engineers were among the few passengers arriving at Waterloo station in what is usually the rush hour.

An empty King’s Cross tube station in London this morning, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatres, work from home if possible

They told how they would pick up laptops and attend meetings to coordinate working from home. While key workers explained why they had to come into town.

Businessman Ivan Bell, 56, from Hastings, told MailOnline: ‘I run a packaging design company and I’ve come in to organize how we are going to work from home.

‘I have offices in London, New York and San Francisco.

‘We have already shut the office down in California and today I will be shutting down the offices in London and New York.’

Accountant Sharon Da Costa, 50, from north London, told MailOnline: ‘Today is my last day. Half of the office is already working from home and I’m just getting everything I need so I can do the same.’

Public Relations worker Emma Smith added: ‘I’ve come in for a meeting to work out how we are going to work from home.’

Marketing Executive Helen Jones, 51, from Staines, said: ‘This is my last day. I’m collecting my laptop so that I can work from home.

‘Some of us left the office before the government announcement urging people to stay at home last night.’

Structural engineer Richard Whitehead, 48, from Fleet, Hants, said: ‘We are working at the moment but I’m sure everything will soon grind to a halt.

Pictured: King’s Cross station in central London this morning after Mr Johnson advised people to start social distancing 

‘We are already having meetings by conference call so that people can work from home.’

Hannah Milbourn, 23, from Public Health England, explained: ‘I can’t work from home. I’m part of the team who is organizing the response to the Coronavirus and issues the guidance on how best to tackle. It.’

A university lecturer told how he was obliged to come to work until the institution closed down.

He added: ‘As long as the students are coming I will be coming to work. We will put all lecturers online from tomorrow. But if the students are there I should be as well.’

University pay-roll manager Jenny Fitzgerald added: ‘I’m the person who makes sure everyone gets paid. So I have to come in.’


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. 

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. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

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. 

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 was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said 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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