UK's chief scientific adviser: Could be 55,000 coronavirus cases in UK
UK coronavirus deaths increase by SIXTEEN to 71 and infections soar by 407 more in a day taking total to 1,950
- Sir Patrick Vallance told Health Select Committee there could be 55,000 cases
- He said that sort of number was ‘reasonable sort of ballpark’ based on modelling
- Last week the government said it believed the number of cases was 5-10,000
- Latest official government data shows 1,950 positive coronavirus cases – up 470
- Difference between official data and estimate prompts scrutiny of testing levels
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The UK’s coronavirus death and infection toll today jumped again, as health chiefs revealed 71 Britons have now died and almost 2,000 have been struck down across the home nations.
NHS England confirmed 14 more deaths and revealed a 45-year-old had become Britain’s youngest victim of the outbreak so far. Wales and Scotland each recorded another fatality.
Officials recorded the biggest daily spike in cases yet, with 407 patients diagnosed in the past 24 hours – meaning 1,950 Britons have now caught the life-threatening virus that has left the UK engulfed in fear.
It comes after the government’s chief scientific adviser today admitted there are likely to be as many as 55,000 cases of coronavirus currently in the UK.
Sir Patrick Vallance claimed modelling of the spread of the disease in Britain showed that for every death there was likely to be 1,000 positive cases.
Official statistics published yesterday put the death toll at 55 which means it is a ‘reasonable sort of ballpark’ to think there are now more than 50,000 cases nationwide, he said.
Last week the government estimated the number of cases was likely to be between 5-10,000.
As of 9am this morning some 50,442 people have been tested for coronavirus with 1,950 testing positive and 48,492 testing negative.
The 1,950 figure represents an overnight increase of 407 positive tests when compared to yesterday’s figure of 1,543.
The Department of Health said this afternoon that the UK death toll had now risen by 14 to a total of 69.
The massive difference between the number of confirmed cases in the UK and the number of estimated positive cases is likely to prompt further scrutiny of the government’s testing regime.
Appearing in front of the Health Select Committee, Sir Patrick was asked by chairman Jeremy Hunt to confirm the reported modelling regarding the relationship between the number of cases and deaths.
He confirmed the 55,000 figure was likely to be accurate and said: ‘We have tried to get a handle on that in Sage [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] and you put all the modelling information together that is a reasonable sort of ballpark way of looking at it. It is not more accurate than that.’
It came as the government stepped up its efforts to persuade manufacturing companies to help build ventilators for the NHS amid concerns about how long it could take to get production lines up and running.
Sir Patrick Vallance told the Health Select Committee today that there could be as many as 55,000 cases of coronavirus in the UK
The government is stepping up its efforts to persuade manufacturers to help build ventilators for the NHS. Today’s ventilators include a computer-electronic control system with valves, regulators, filters, oxygen and exhalation sensors, flow meters.
Of the 1,950 confirmed cases in the UK, some 1,557 are in England, 136 are in Wales, 195 are in Scotland and 62 are in Northern Ireland.
Sir Patrick also said the government’s tough new social distancing measures announced by Boris Johnson yesterday could result in new case numbers falling inside a month.
He told MPs: ‘We should start to see the rates come down in two or three weeks’ time.’
The Prime Minister has told the nation that all non-essential travel and social contact should cease for the forseeable future.
Over-70s and people with pre-existing serious medical conditions are being told to follow the social distancing measures as closely as possible to minimise their risk of infection.
Sir Patrick said keeping the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK at ‘20,000 and below’ would be a ‘good outcome’ but still ‘horrible’.
‘That is the hope that we can get it down to that,’ he said.
‘To put that into perspective every year in seasonal flu the number of deaths is thought to be about 8,000.
‘So if we can get this down to numbers 20,000 and below that is a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to in this outbreak.
‘But I mean it is still horrible. That is still an enormous number of deaths and it is an enormous pressure on the health service.’
Sir Patrick also revealed that coronavirus testing will be rolled out to key workers including NHS staff in the coming weeks as the government bolsters its testing capacity.
That will enable the government and the health service to determine whether staff can continue to work.
Sir Patrick told the committee: ‘The next group of people that I know PHE [Public Health England] and I checked with the CMO [Chief Medical Officer] to make sure this is exactly where they want to go, is to try and get to key workers and make sure they are tested and obviously healthcare workers would be absolutely there.
‘As the capacity ramps up that is where you would go next to make sure you can do that and I think that is the plan.’
Sir Patrick said there needed to be a ‘big increase’ in the amount of testing overall and that was something he was ‘pushing for very hard’.
He set out his hopes that a simple community test will soon be developed to allow people to find out quickly if they have the disease.
Sir Patrick’s comments came as the UK increased its efforts to build the ventilators the NHS needs to cope with coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday the NHS currently has 5,000 artificial respirators but will need ‘many times more than that’ in the weeks and months ahead.
The government is enlisting the likes of Dyson and JCB to help in the national effort but there are concerns about how long it could take large manufacturers to convert their production lines.
The firms may need to overhaul their entire supply chain and have to hastily re-train their staff to make and check the critical life-support devices.
Reports suggest that British companies may soon be ordered rather than asked to manufacture ventilators.
Dyson, Rolls Royce, JCB, Honda, Philips and Unipart are among those who have either been confirmed to be involved with the manufacturing effort or have registered their interest.
In response to how Dyson would build ventilators, a spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Using our expertise and resources we are working with other companies to see if we can provide a rapid solution.’
Rolls Royce, meanwhile, told MailOnline: ‘We understand that the government is exploring ways in which businesses can help deal with the outbreak of COVID-19.
‘As they shape their plans, we are keen to do whatever we can to help the government and the country at this time and will look to provide any practical help we can.’
A spokesperson from logistics company Unipart also confirmed to MailOnline that it had been approached by the government.
‘We’re pleased to be involved in such an important project and doing everything we can to help,’ they said.
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