‘This is the virus I fear the most’: British scientist leading coronavirus fight says it’s ‘not absurd’ to forecast 400,000 UK fatalities as world-wide death toll surges past 1,500
- Scientist Professor Neil Ferguson is leading the fight against the virus in the UK
- Ferguson said it was unhelpful to throw numbers around but 400k isn’t ‘absurd’
- He also added that he would rather overreact than be accused of under reacting
- The global death toll from the virus has now passed 1,500, with 66,000 infected
The British scientist leading the fight against coronavirus admitted last night that predictions of 400,000 UK deaths are ‘not absurd’.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, revealed that ‘this is the one I’m scared of’ when asked about the killer coronavirus, which is causing increasing alarm all over the country.
However, he insisted he was not predicting 400,000 deaths, but was warning that the figure ‘is possible’. He said he would rather and adding that he’d ‘prefer to be accused of overreacting than under reacting’.
Research indicates that 60 per cent of Britons could be affected by the virus, formally known as COVID-19.
Professor Ferguson added: ‘Our best estimates at the moment is that maybe one per cent of people who get infected might die.’
It comes as it was revealed that the government is working on the assumption that half of the population will be infected with the virus, which could reach every part of Britain within months.
This would force intensive care units to make ‘hard choices’ about prioritising who to treat.
Scientist Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said 60 per cent of Britons could ‘potentially’ be affected by the virus, formally known as COVID-19
A couple wear protective masks as they walk along the Thames embankment in London
Professor Ferguson was asked last night whether 400,000 could die and replied: ‘Potentially. Given we know a lot about how these viruses are spread we have lots of data from past epidemics.
‘Given how transmissible this virus appears to be and that fact that at least all adults can be infected, we have much less data in children, then 60 percent is a reasonable figure.
‘Within the first 12 months or so. What we don’t know at the moment is if everybody infected. What proportion might die and what are the risk groups? Our best estimates at the moment is that maybe 1 per cent of people who get infected might die.’
‘I would much prefer to be accused of overreacting than under reacting. This virus is the one which probably concerns me the most out of everything I’ve worked on.’
It comes as:
- The global death toll from coronavirus hit 1,500 and the number infected passed 66,000.
- Brits are growing increasingly alarmed with daily delays at Heathrow airport as passengers are checked and several surgeries forced to close.
- Yesterday, passengers endured hours of misery at Heathrow Airport when up to eight planes were put on lockdown over coronavirus fears
- MailOnline understands a British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur was held up on the tarmac for two hours when it landed at 6.45am
- Yesterday afternoon two MPs went into ‘self-isolation’ after going to a Westminster bus conference that was attended by one of the UK’s nine coronavirus patients
- In Portsmouth, a doctor’s surgery was closed for deep cleaning after a suspected case of coronavirus was identified.
Staff in hazmat suits were said to have got on board the British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur this morning (thought to be pictured) and set up a privacy tent around an unwell family before evacuating everyone off the plane row by row
A passenger who flew with Emirates into Johannesburg, South Africa, said army officials came on board and tested each individual’s temperature
Labour MP Alex Sobel announced his decision on Twitter, revealing he has cancelled upcoming engagements as a precaution after going to the QEII Centre on February 6. The party’s MP for Nottingham South, Lilian Greenwood, also announced on Twitter that she had cancelled upcoming engagements in order to self-isolate at home
The virus-carrier was reportedly one of 250 delegates at the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Centre on February 6 (Boris Johnson ‘s Buses Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton speaks at the summit)
London’s Heathrow and Gatwick are the only two UK airports which still have direct flights from China landing – none are being operated by British airlines
Labour MPs Lilian Greenwood and Alex Sobel both announced their decisions on Twitter and said they had cancelled upcoming engagements as a precaution.
The Westminster bus conference at the QEII Centre on February 6 was just a stone’s throw from Parliament.
The virus-carrier was one of 250 delegates at the UK Bus Summit, whose star speaker was Boris Johnson‘s Buses Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton.
MailOnline understands the coronavirus patient who attended the conference was not the most recent case.
REVEALED: THE BRITONS INFECTED WITH CORONAVIRUS – AND WHERE ARE THEY BEING TREATED?
Cases in the UK and where they are being cared for:
Newcastle: Two Chinese nationals who came to the UK with coronavirus and fell ill while at a hotel in York. One is a student in the city and another is a relative. They were the first two cases on British soil and were confirmed on January 31. They are being treated at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Steve Walsh: The first British coronavirus victim became known as a super-spreader. He picked up the virus in Singapore and flew for a ski break in France afterwards where he appears to have infected at least 11 people. He was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital in London from Brighton on February 6 – but was released on February 12 after recovering.
Dr Catriona Saynor, who went on holiday with Mr Walsh and her husband, Bob, and their three children, is thought to be the fourth patient in the UK diagnosed with coronavirus. Her husband and nine-year-old son were also diagnosed but remained in France. She was taken to a hospital in London on February 9 from Brighton She is thought to be at the Royal Free in Camden.
Four more people in Brighton were diagnosed and were all ‘known contacts’ of the super-spreader and are thought to have stayed in the same French resort. One is known to be an A&E doctor and is believed to have worked at Worthing Hospital. Another attended a bus conference in Westminster on February 6. They are all being treated in London.
London: The first case of the coronavirus in London brought the total number of cases in the UK to nine. The woman was diagnosed on February 12 and taken to St Thomas’ Hospital. She is thought to have flown into the UK from China the weekend before, with officials confirming she caught the virus there.
Total in UK hospitals: Nine patients. Six Britons and three Chinese nationals
British expats and holidaymakers outside the UK and where they are being cared for:
Majorca: A British father-of-two who stayed in the French ski resort with Steve Walsh tested positive after returning to his home in Majorca. His wife and children are not ill.
France: Five people who were in the chalet with the super-spreader. These include the chalet’s owner, environmental consultant Bob Saynor, 48, and his nine-year-old son. They are all in a French hospital with three unnamed others.
Japan: A British man on board a cruise ship docked at a port in Japan tested positive for coronavirus, Princess Cruises said. Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, posted on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with the virus. Steele said he was not showing any symptoms but was being taken to hospital. He was on his honeymoon. Two more Britons have since tested positive for on a quarantined cruise ship.
That case put London on red alert after the capital’s first confirmed patient took herself to A&E in an Uber on Sunday and walked into a public area of Lewisham Hospital – going against strict advice to stay at home and ring NHS 111.
Two healthcare workers who came into contact with the Chinese woman at the hospital have been told to self-isolate and the taxi driver’s account has been temporarily suspended.
The woman, who contracted coronavirus in China, ‘self-presented’ at Lewisham Hospital before being sent home to await the results of tests.
She was rushed to St Thomas’s on Wednesday after her test results returned positive. She is believed to live with family in London and thought to be in her late 20s or early 30s.
Official advice from PHE states that anyone who suspects they have coronavirus should stay at home, call NHS 111 and await transport to the nearest hospital assessment pod.
The Chinese patient was the first case in London and doctors are worried that the disease’s emergence in the capital will lead to it spreading quickly.
Amid fears of the virus in the capital, people have been avoiding Chinatown in Soho.
The normally-bustling tourist hotspot were eerily deserted last night, with restaurants left empty just weeks after Chinese new Year.
In Portsmouth, a doctor’s surgery was closed for deep cleaning after a suspected case of coronavirus was identified.
A patient said they were among several who were all told they had to leave Kingston Crescent Surgery in Portsmouth, Hampshire, at 4.30pm due to an ’emergency’.
It is understood a woman who had recently flown into Gatwick was the cause of the alert and she has now gone to hospital to undergo tests.
A doctor from the GP practice said they were following Public Health England guidance and had transferred patient care elsewhere while cleaning is carried out at the site.
Dr Sarah Swindells, from the surgery, said: ‘We have closed with a suspected case of coronavirus; we’re following Public Health England guidance and are in contact with them and NHS England.
‘This is evolving minute by minute for us but at the moment it’s just a suspected case.
‘We have transferred care elsewhere so patients will be taken care of.’
The closure of the surgery in the North End area of the city was announced on the Portsdown Group Practice website.
The statement read: ‘Due to coronavirus our Kingston Crescent Surgery is closed for deep cleaning until further notice.’
Patient care will now be carried out at Cosham Park House until the surgery is deemed suitable for reopening.
Elsewhere, two GP surgeries were closed after patients with suspicious symptoms turned up unannounced.
The Ritchie Street Health Centre in Islington, north London, posted a message on its website stating it would be closed until today ‘due to the coronavirus’.
However it has emerged that no patients or staff at the practice have tested positive for the virus – and it remains unclear why management took the decision to shut.
NHS officials say the move may have been precautionary after a patient was tested for the virus after turning up at the practice with symptoms.
The Ferns Medical Practice in Farnham, Surrey, said that it was undertaking a deep clean after a patient had come in after visiting ‘one of the affected coronavirus areas’.
Patients were told they had to leave Kingston Crescent Surgery because of an emergency
London’s Chinatown stands eerily deserted as thousands of revellers keep their distance from the tourist spot as coronavirus panic sweeps the UK
The normally-busy restaurants are empty just weeks after Chinese New Year after Britain’s ninth confirmed case of the virus, a woman who travelled from China, became the first in the capital
Meanwhile, a British couple stuck onboard a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan appealed to billionaire Richard Branson for help.
David Abel made the appeal during a Facebook live video in which he asked the Virgin boss to charter a special plane to fly all the British passengers home to carry out their quarantine.
He added despite being a ‘staunch Tory’ he had ‘no confidence’ in Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Abel said: ‘When he (Johnson) just says ‘keep calm, don’t panic’ – I’d like to see you in this situation, mate. I really would.’
He has become an unlikely celebrity due to his videos and he and his wife Sally have featured in news outlets across the world.
Abel made the appeal during a Facebook live video in which he asked the Virgin boss to charter a special plane to fly all the British passengers back to the UK to carry out their quarantine
In the wake of his viral fame he said was now ‘appealing to one man’.
‘So, Richard Branson, I want to ask you a question, pal,’ he said in a video posted on Valentine’s Day.
‘If you and your family were in this situation, what would you do? And please don’t say ‘chill out, stay calm’, that’s not what we want to hear.
‘I’m asking, what would it cost to hire one of your smaller planes, put all the Brits onboard, no flight attendants, packaged food?
‘Take us to Brize Norton, take us straight into the medical facility and let us do our quarantine there by people who can speak our language.’
Some 2,512 people in Britain have been tested since last month. Patients with suspected coronavirus have swabs taken of their nose and throat which are sent to one of 12 labs across the UK.
Results usually come back within 48 hours – although they can be turned around in 24 hours – and the NHS can test a maximum of 1,000 patients in a day.
A woman wears a protective mask as she holds flowers given to her on Valentine’s Day in Beijing, China
China has reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with the killer coronavirus, with the death toll now nearing 1,400. Pictured: Woman wears a protective mask in Beijing
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said officials were hoping to delay the spread of the coronavirus in this country until the summer.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Delay is the next stage of what we need to do because if we are going to get an outbreak in the UK – this is an if, not a when – but if we do, putting it back in time into the summer period, away from winter pressures on the NHS, buying us a bit more time to understand the virus better… is a big advantage.’
He added that while it was ‘highly likely’ the UK would see more cases, the disease could be ‘dampened’ as the weather got warmer.
The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, said that to contain the spread many more patients would need to self-isolate at home if they had suspicious symptoms.
It was also announced yesterday that the illness has now spread to Egypt, with authorities saying a ‘foreigner’ is infected.
The health ministry said in a statement that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures.
It did not give the nationality of the affected person or any other details.
The individual has been placed in quarantine.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has said that hand dryers and UV lamps won’t kill the coronavirus.
Debunking 10 of the biggest myths surrounding the outbreak, the board of top health officials also said eating garlic will not protect you.
While some bogus ‘cures’ aren’t harmful, others are potentially dangerous, like drinking bleach or dousing the body with alcohol spray.
There is also no evidence the coronavirus was engineered in a lab, according to scientists.
Conspiracy theories spreading online have claimed that the virus, which has claimed 1,500 lives, was made as a biological weapon and released by accident.
These were made stronger by the revelation that the Chinese government runs a secretive virus laboratory in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.
But scientists who have studied the structure of the virus in detail say there is nothing about it which suggests it has been edited by humans or machines.
Beijing has also ordered anyone returning to the city to be quarantined for 14 days or risk punishment in a bid to contain coronavirus.
Residents were told to either ‘self quarantine or go to designated venues to quarantine’ when they returned to the Chinese capital which is home to more than 20 million people.