Coronavirus crisis will 'last until Spring 2021 briefing reveals'

Britain’s coronavirus crisis ‘could last until Spring 2021 with up to 8MILLION people – or 15% of the population – hospitalised, secret NHS briefing reveals’ – as death toll leaps 14 in a day to 35

  • The document shows health chiefs expect the virus to last for another 12 months
  • It says that around 80 per cent of the population are expected to be infected 
  • It is understood document drawn up in recent days by Public Health England
  • Nick Matthews – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol yesterday 
  • UK coronavirus fatalities increased by 14 overnight making total death toll 35
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Britain’s coronavirus crisis could last until Spring 2021 and see 7.9million people hospitalised, a secret briefing for senior NHS figures has revealed.

The document, seen by The Guardian newspaper, shows that health chiefs expect the virus to last for another 12 months, and details how it will impact key staff in the NHS, police and fire brigade.

It says: ‘As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation.’

It is understood the document was drawn up in recent days by Public Health England’s preparedness and response team.

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, and expert in epidemiology said:  ‘For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that’

‘A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood.’ 

Members of the public spotted today on the tube as the deaths from the pandemic increased today 

Chaos this week saw people scrabbling to load up with loo rolls, long-life milk and pasta in a bid to prepare for the worst as the coronavirus death toll hit 21 yesterday while the number of infected soared past 1,000 in the UK alone. Pictured: Bare shelves in a Morrisons store  in London

The document also discloses that  an estimated 500,000 of the 5 million people deemed vital because they work ‘in essential services and critical infrastructure’ will be off sick at any one time during a month-long peak of the epidemic.

This 5 million figure includes 1 million NHS staff and 1.5 million working in social care.

It came as a total of 40,279 people have been tested across the UK and the latest update comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning said that the elderly may have to self isolate for up to four months.

38,907 tested negative against the disease and 1,372 tested positive.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning said that the elderly may have to self isolate for up to four months.

It comes after a  heartbroken wife paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband who has become the youngest coronavirus patient in Britain to die today.

Father-of-two Nick Matthews is believed to be the youngest coronavirus victim in Britain.

The 59-year-old – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary in the early hours of yesterday morning. 

Heartbroken wife Mary Matthews (left) paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband Nick, 59, (right) who died from coronavirus in Bristol

It was today revealed that coronavirus fatalities in the UK have increased by 14 overnight bringing the total death toll to 35.

Mr Matthews’ wife Mary wrote in a tribute on Facebook yesterday: ‘Today at 3am I lost my life partner and soul mate but most of all my best friend. 

‘Charlotte, Ben and I are beyond proud to have had such a big character in our lives.

‘As a family we are still currently in isolation until the coronavirus test results come back. 

‘Someone will post again when we have more information. 

Mr Matthews – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary

‘In the meantime, I know some of you would like to visit but please for you and your families safety, stay away until we get the all clear.’

Mr and Mrs Matthews had recently returned from a holiday in Fuerteventura, flying out on February 22 and returning on February 29.

In his last Facebook post, Mr Matthews described celebrating his birthday on the popular tourist hotspot. 

Nailsea People reported that Mr Matthews was diagnosed with pneumonia at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and was admitted to the intensive care unit after showing other signs for coronavirus.

Mrs Matthews told Nailsea People: ‘People who may have come into contact with either Nick or me during the past two weeks need to self-isolate and get advice.

‘Although he tested positive, until a post-mortem examination, we can’t say that was cause of death at the moment.

‘I don’t want to panic people, but I do want people to take extra precautions.’

Mr Matthews retired from his work as a police officer 10 years ago after suffering a heart attack.

Mr Matthews’ wife Mary penned a heart-breaking tribute on Facebook yesterday after her husband’s death

It was today revealed that coronavirus fatalities in the UK have increased by 14 overnight bringing the total death toll to 35. Pictured: Bristol Royal Infirmary where Mr Matthews died

The announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care (above) stated the new numbers for today 

Many paid tribute to him on Facebook, with one describing him as a ‘true Avon and Somerset Police legend’.

The number of cases of the killer bug increased by more than 200 to 1,372, the department of health and social care announced this afternoon.

A total of 40,279 people have been tested across the UK.

In a statement, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust said: ‘Sadly, we can confirm that a man who was being cared for at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and had tested positive for Covid-19, has died. 

‘The patient who died was in his late-fifties and had underlying health conditions.

‘The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. We will not be commenting further and ask that everybody respects the family’s privacy.’

Councillor Don Davies, the leader of North Somerset Council, said the authority’s ‘heartfelt condolences’ were with the family and all that knew him.

‘I understand that the family have requested privacy at this difficult time and I ask that everyone respects their wishes,’ Cllr Davies said.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 across Europe is 40,677 and the number of deaths is 1,553. The World Health Organisation has said that Europe is the new epicentre of the virus

Britain’s over-70s told to stay at home for four months

Mass isolating of the elderly – even if they are not ill – will begin within the next 20 days as Boris Johnson ratchets up efforts to tackle the UK’s ballooning outbreak. 

This morning health secretary Matt Hancock said the virus is ‘one of the biggest challenges we have seen in a generation’. 

Although the drastic measures that have been implemented by the government have been drawn up to protect those most vulnerable to the killer COVID-19 infection, it brings serious concerns about the wellbeing of pensioners cooped-up for such a long time.

Regular social outings will have to be scrapped and pangs of loneliness could compound an already stressful isolation experience, psychologists have warned. 

Instructing the over-70s to remain indoors forms part of a wider package of emergency powers due to be officially rolled out by Downing Street this week. 

‘I am sure the news will be met with sadness in the wider community and it is important that everyone remains calm and follows the latest national advice on the steps needed to reduce the spread of infection.’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government is ‘well behind the curve’ in its handling of the crisis and said it should be ‘at the very least giving a daily briefing’ about what is going on.

Mr Corbyn said: ‘There has to be much clearer guidance but also much better support.’

He added: ‘When football authorities and others take responsible decisions to cancel matches because they were worried about the crowd, they did that themselves – it was not the Government.’

When Mr Corbyn, who is 70, was asked if he would self-isolate, he said: ‘I am doing what everybody is being asked to do, which is washing my hands frequently and also making sure that the meetings I attend have people who are separated by some distance.

‘It is all the kind of practical measures that we all need to take.’

Mr Hancock said ministers are yet to make a decision on whether to ban gatherings of more than 500 people in the rest of the UK, after Scotland said it would bring in restrictions from Monday.

Shoppers are faced with partially empty shelves at a supermarket in London as consumers worry about product shortages as a result of the coronavirus 

It comes as eleven new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of known cases there to 45.

The Department of Health said people with mild symptoms – new persistent cough and/or fever – should stay at home and self-isolate for seven days and that they will not require testing.

In Wales there were 34 new cases today, pushing its total to 94. A huge jump from 60. 

CHARITIES URGE FAMILIES TO CHECK UP ON ELDERLY RELATIVES

Charities have advised families to check elderly relatives have everything they need after Matt Hancock said over-70s will soon be asked to stay at home for four months.

The Alzheimer’s Society has not advised against visiting elderly relatives. 

But it said anyone concerned should ring their loved ones to check they have handwash and hand sanitiser, are cleaning remote controls, door handles and taps regularly, and to see whether they need anyone to do a shopping trip for them.

Independent Age has also not advised against visits, but urged family members to ensure older relatives have all the supplies they need such as food and medication.

Age UK has said elderly people feeling well can still carry on as normal, and go out and meet people, providing basic hygiene measures such as washing hands regularly are observed.

Several care homes in the UK have suspended all visits in a bid to stop the virus spreading and Independent Age has told its volunteers home visits should now be conducted over the phone. 

Mr Hancock said today that people can still visit elderly family members and neighbours as long as neither party is unwell. 

Public Health Wales said it was working with partners in the Welsh Government and the wider NHS in Wales now that the country had entered the ‘delay’ phase.

The new cases, by local authority area, are: two in Blaenau Gwent, four in Caerphilly, three in Carmarthenshire, one in Ceredigion, four in Swansea, three in Cardiff, one in Monmouthshire, three in Newport, two in Rhondda Cynon Taf, two in Torfaen and one in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The residential areas of eight of the new confirmed cases were still being confirmed on Sunday.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, issued a video message describing how the Welsh Government had been ‘working hard to prepare for what is to come’.

‘We are working around the clock with experts here in Wales and around the United Kingdom to do everything we possibly can to protect you and your families,’ he said.

‘Every decision we make is based on the best expert public health advice.

‘It’s really important in facing the coronavirus that we take the right decisions at the right time.’

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: ‘We can confirm that 34 new cases have tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 94.

‘Public Health Wales is working within the phased approach to tackling the novel coronavirus outlined in the UK Coronavirus Action Plan – to contain, delay, research and mitigate.

‘We are working with our partners in the Welsh Government, the wider NHS in Wales, and others now that we have entered the ‘delay’ phase.

Mass isolating of the elderly – even if they are not ill – will begin within the next 20 days as Boris Johnson ratchets up efforts to tackle the UK’s outbreak 

‘This is now not just an attempt to contain the disease, as far as possible, but to delay its spread.’

Coronavirus forces Scottish school closures

A number of schools across Scotland are to close from Monday due to coronavirus outbreaks.

Dunblane High School has closed to all pupils and staff after a pupil tested positive for Covid-19.

Stirling Council said a deep clean of the school will take place immediately. All other schools in the local authority area will be open as normal.

Convener for Children and Young People, Councillor Susan McGill, said: ‘We are working closely with the school to address this situation and hope to have the establishment back open as soon as it is safe to do so.

‘We completely appreciate the uncertainty felt in the community during this unprecedented set of circumstances. Our focus is to bring you accurate, up to date information as soon as it is available.

‘In the meantime, please continue to follow the guidance from the NHS and governments, available online.’

Isobel Mair School and Nursery in Newton Mearns and Murroes Primary School in Angus have also been closed after the emergence of coronavirus cases linked to their communities.

In a statement, East Renfrewhsire Council said it had taken the decision to temporarily close Isobel Mair School on Monday ‘as a precautionary measure following the emergence of a coronavirus case linked to the school’.

It added: ‘The school is currently contacting staff and parents to inform them of the decision and of our intention to reopen the school as soon as possible.

‘The individual with coronavirus is self-isolating at home and is giving no cause for concern.’

Angus Council said Murroes Primary would be close from Monday to Wednesday ‘in order to undertake a deep clean after a suspected positive case of coronavirus (Covid-19) related to the school’.

Shetlands Islands Council previously said that some of its schools would be closed for all of next week.

Helen Budge, director of Children’s Services, said: ‘During this Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken this decision, not specifically for public health, but for operational and resilience reasons.’ 

Dr Shankar said the advice for the public had changed, with people no longer needing to contact NHS 111 if they believe they may have contracted Covid-19.

Instead, anyone with a high temperature or a new continuous cough should stay at home for seven days and should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel unable to cope with their symptoms at home, their condition worsens or their symptoms do not improve after seven days.

‘The move into the ‘delay’ phase, will include working closely with health boards, NHS 111 and the Welsh Government towards transitioning away from community testing and contact tracing,’ Dr Shankar said.

‘Testing will now focus on cases admitted to hospital, in line with national guidance, and based on symptoms and severity.

‘The move away from community testing gives us greater capacity to test in hospital settings, where the most vulnerable patients will be cared for.’

The announcement of the new cases came as Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, wrote to Mr Drakeford about the outbreak.

He called for Mr Drakeford to use powers available under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 to prohibit or restrict the holdings of events or gatherings.

‘It is imperative that Wales uses all the powers already at its disposal in order to delay the spread of Covid-19 and we will support you in that endeavour,’ Mr Price wrote.

Mr Price said the measures would give public reassurance and mitigate against community transmission of the virus.

As of March 12, a total of 945 people in Wales had been tested for coronavirus.

On Friday, the country’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, warned that up to 25,000 people in Wales could die amid a worst-case scenario.

He announced that non-urgent surgical procedures and outpatient appointments would be suspended to help the NHS in Wales cope with the virus.

The panic surrounding the virus has continued to spread and supermarkets are struggling to keep up with demand for items such as toilet roll and hygiene products and dried foods such as pasta.

This is while various countries pledge to close their borders on Monday. Germany this afternoon said it would close its borders to Austria, France and Switzerland and non-essential public places in France were also ordered to close.

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 5,300 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 140,000 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. 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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