The UK’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the fastest escalating epidemics in Europe, official statistics have revealed.
676 people were diagnosed with the virus yesterday, more than in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Austria or Denmark.
This was 35 per cent more than the previous day, when there were 407 cases, and meant the total toll had almost doubled in two days from 1,523 to 2,626. Today has seen a surge of another 603 confirmed patients to a total of 3,269.
Only Italy, Spain, France and Germany are seeing faster growth but all have significantly higher numbers of cases – each with at least 7,000 cases each.
Switzerland, which has a comparable number of patients to the UK, saw just 450 new cases between Tuesday and Thursday whereas Britain has had 1,083.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week acknowledged the epidemic was entering its ‘fast growth phase’ and scientists have said Britain and other countries are just weeks behind Italy, which is in the grip of the worst outbreak outside of China.
Boris Johnson said in a conference today: ‘At the moment the disease is proceeding in a way that does not seem, yet, to be responding to our interventions’ – he urged people to follow the advice to not go out in public or travel unless they cannot avoid it
HOW MANY NEW CASES HAVE EUROPEAN COUNTRIES DIAGNOSED IN THE PAST WEEK?
Between March 12 and March 18, the 12 hardest-hit countries in Europe diagnosed more than 53,000 new cases of the coronavirus between them. This is how they divided up:
- Italy – 21,357
- Spain – 9,539
- France – 5,878
- Germany – 5,860
- UK – 2,170
- Switzerland – 2,159
- Netherlands – 1,323
- Belgium – 1,219
- Norway – 1,031
- Sweden – 841
- Austria – 1,150
- Denmark – 715
Speaking in a conference on Monday Mr Johnson said the UK was approaching the ‘fast growth part of the upward curve’ in the number of cases.
‘Without drastic action, cases could double every five or six days,’ he said.
As it stands, the number of UK cases has doubled in just three days – it was 1,372 on Sunday, March 15, and 2,626 by yesterday, Wednesday March 16.
Today it has risen to 3,269 – the World Health Organization will tomorrow publish its official figures for all countries.
In his national address today Mr Johnson said: ‘At the moment the disease is proceeding in a way that does not seem, yet, to be responding to our interventions.
‘I believe that a combination of the measures that we’re asking the public to take and better testing… will enable us to get on top of it within the next 12 weeks and turn the tide.
‘I cannot stand here and tell you that we will be on the downward slope [by then] – it’s possible but I simply cant say that that’s for certain.
‘We don’t know where we are and we don’t know how long this thing will go on for but what I can say is that this is going to be finite.
‘We will turn the tide and I can see how to do it within the next 12 weeks.’
Europe is now the beating heart of the global coronavirus pandemic and has had more cases and deaths than China, where the virus was first discovered.
Italy alone has now had more deaths than China did, and the ferocious spread of the infection in Europe has meant that 100,000 new cases were diagnosed in just 10 days this month after the world took around 10 weeks to reach the first 100,000.
More than 224,000 cases of the coronavirus have now been diagnosed around the world and over 9,200 people have died of the disease since it first appeared at the turn of the new year
WHAT SHOULD EVERYONE BE DOING TO STOP THE CORONAVIRUS SPREADING?
- Avoid social contact
- Work from home if possible
- Avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues
- If someone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus (cough, fever or unusual shortness of breath), everyone in the home self-isolate for 14 days
- If isolating, only go outside for exercise, and do it away from other people
- Ask for help with daily necessities like food and medical supplies
- If that is not possible – for example if you live in a remote area – you should limit social contact as much as possible
- Vulnerable groups should self-isolate for 12 weeks from this weekend even if they have no symptoms – This includes people aged 70 and over and other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccination, including people with chronic diseases such as chronic heart disease or chronic kidney disease, and pregnant women. A full list is here
- All unnecessary visits to friends and relatives in care homes should end
- Continue to take your children to school unless they or someone else in your home has symptoms of the coronavirus (cough, fever or unusual shortness of breath)
- Londoners need to socially distance and work from home even more than the rest of the UK because the disease is more widespread there
- Mass gatherings should not happen – they will no longer receive emergency services’ protection if they do go ahead
In the past week, the UK has declared the fifth most new cases of coronavirus – 2,170.
By comparison, Switzerland declared 2,159; the Netherlands 1,323; Belgium 1,219; Norway 1,031; Sweden 841; Austria 1,150; and Denmark 715.
The countries which declared more were Italy (21,357), Spain (9,539), France (5,878) and Germany (5,860).
All those countries have considerably worse outbreaks than the UK but Britain is expected to follow suit in the coming days and weeks.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this week ramped up the UK’s reaction to the virus spreading and urged people not to go out.
He said people must spend at least a week at home if they get the symptoms of coronavirus – a cough or a fever – and for two weeks if someone else in their home does.
People should also not visit elderly relatives or friends or those with long-term illnesses, and should avoid all gatherings.
Everyone should work from home if they can, he said, and should avoid restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes and not to travel unless they absolutely have to.
Britain’s coronavirus death toll has today risen to 137 as Scotland’s individual fatality toll doubled overnight and Northern Ireland confirmed its first victim of the life-threatening infection.
Officials announced 33 more deaths, the joint highest daily fatality count recorded on British soil since the crisis began to rapidly spiral out of control last week.
The new deaths include a 47-year-old – the second youngest British victim. MailOnline understands the patient was a woman from the Midlands, who had high blood pressure and another underlying health condition.
Scotland announced earlier this afternoon three more deaths, taking its overall toll to six. Two deaths have already been recorded in Wales.
Italy has overtaken China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths after suffering 427 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 3,405.
The latest figures have squashed hopes that the unprecedented national lockdown was helping to slow the spread of the pathogen.
A medical worker wearing a protective mask and suit treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease in Cremona today
A triage department of the Spedali di Brescia hospital in northern Italy which has been the worst-affected region of Italy
The death toll in China, where the coronavirus started, currently stands at 3,249 – their outbreak seems to be all but over after no new cases were diagnosed today for the first time.
It comes after military trucks were deployed across Italy to transport scores of victims’ coffins to be cremated as chilling footage also emerged of patients laid out on hospital beds along the corridors of an intensive care unit in Bergamo.
The crisis is underlining how health services in northern Italy have been overwhelmed by the pandemic, with doctors describing hospitals in crisis and many medics working from makeshift tents.
The governor of Lombardy, the worst-affected region which includes Bergamo, said doctors and nurses in the region’s hospitals were at their limits.
BORIS JOHNSON SAYS BRITAIN ‘CAN TURN THE TIDE ON CORONAVIRUS’
Boris Johnson today insisted Britain can ‘turn the tide’ on coronavirus within 12 weeks – but issued a stark plea for Londoners to be stricter in obeying the advice on ‘social isolation’.
The PM said he knew how much was being asked of the public as he insisted he was confident the outbreak can be ‘sent packing’.
He said it was ‘absolutely vital’ to follow guidance on staying out of bars and cafes, and avoiding unnecessary contact.
But he warned that obedience of the rules was ‘patchy’ in some part of London, hinting that there will need to be a tougher crackdown soon – although he stressed it would not be a total lockdown.
Boris Johnson today insisted Britain can ‘turn the tide’ on coronavirus within 12 weeks – but issued a stark plea for Londoners to be stricter in obeying the advice on ‘social isolation’
At a press conference in Downing Street tonight, Boris Johnson said he knew how much was being asked of the public as he insisted he was confident the outbreak can be ‘sent packing’
‘It is vital that people follow that advice and there is huge evidence that they are,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘But (there is) some evidence that in some parts of the capital it is very patchy and some areas where perhaps people aren’t following it in quite the way we need them to.
‘We may have to consider going further.’
Mr Johnson also suggested he wanted to ramp up testing massively. After promising to increase the daily rate from around 5,000 to 25,000, he has now said that figure coudl rise to 250,000.
‘We are massively increasing the testing to see whether you have it now, and ramping up daily testing from 5,000 a day, to 10,000 to 25,000 and then up at 250,000,’ he said.
Mr Johnson said the UK was ready to buy hundreds of thousands of kits for an antibody test that would reveal who had been through the virus and had a level of immunity.
And he said the first UK patient was going through a randomised trial of a drug to treat coronavirus.
‘We are rapidly becoming so much better at understanding the genomics at the heart of this virus, a lot of that is going on in this country, we are getting better at understanding the medicines that may treat and cure it and today we have put the first British coronavirus patient into a randomised trial for drugs that may treat the disease,’ he said.
‘UK experts, scientists, expect to start trials for the first vaccine within a month.
‘Above all we are getting better at testing. This crisis is so difficult because the enemy is invisible and the answer is to remove the cloak of invisibility and to identify the virus.’
As the UK death toll hit 137 this afternoon, the prospect of a harsher lockdown for the nine million residents of London looks to be drawing closer.
There are growing fears that the capital is driving the spread of the outbreak, with around a third of total infections detected there and many more in the commuter belt bordering the city.
The government has insisted London will not be completely cut off from the rest of the country, with ‘zero’ prospect’ of trains in and out of the capital being axed, and ‘no plans’ to shut down the Tube system entirely, although services have been pared back.
Fury as hospital staff are denied test even though it’s available
The chief executive of a major London hospital claims NHS England is blocking medical staff from being tested for coronavirus, a leaked memo has revealed.
Doctors and nurses at King’s College Hospital have been told they cannot carry out the tests – even though they have the ability – until all the nation’s hospitals are ready to do the same.
A senior consultant warned last night that it was ‘absolutely beyond comprehension’ that hospitals in London, which are worst affected by the virus, are being stopped from testing staff.
The whistleblower claimed it had put doctors and nurses who may have been exposed to the virus into a ‘state of anxiety’ over whether they risked infecting patients.
The decision also leaves hospitals short of staff as they are forced to stay at home for up to 14 days if other members of their household have symptoms. Testing would allow those with negative results to return to work in hospitals.
According to minutes of a meeting of hospital bosses at King’s College Hospital on Wednesday evening, chief executive Professor Clive Kay warned that NHS England did not want testing of staff to begin until it was available across the country.
The internal memo obtained by the Mail states: ‘Clive made it very clear that at present we should not be testing staff for Covid-19.
‘The reason is that nationally there is not capacity to test all staff that will require testing.’
It said NHS England ‘does not want to introduce inequity in the system where some Trusts are testing staff and others not or not able’. A separate leaked email shows that doctors at the hospital were told this week they were testing too many patients.
A senior consultant at the hospital said last night the decision to delay testing doctors and nurses until it was available across the country put staff and patients at risk, adding: ‘This is muddled thinking. The capacity to substantially upscale testing is already in place. NHS England knows this. Trust chief executives are under huge pressure not to test staff or public. This is completely against all infectious disease principles.’
The consultant said staff swab every patient who arrives for comparably minor MRSA bacterial infections, but must admit people without discovering whether they have coronavirus.
This means they do not know whether to segregate them or doctors and nurses need to use personal protective equipment when treating them. The medic added: ‘We should test every admission. Test, test, test, it is really clear.’
The doctor also warned that staff with mild symptoms were anxious because they could not check whether they had coronavirus, adding: ‘If I have a bit of a cough, but know my hospital is falling apart, do I self-isolate for 14 days?
‘Do I infect the hospital? Do I stay at home and let people die because I am not there? Not giving that opportunity to a doctor to know are they infectious is crazy. The capacity is there.’
Boris Johnson wants to increase the number of tests per day from 10,000 to 25,000 and to prioritise testing NHS staff. But the British Medical Association said members claimed this wasn’t happening.
A spokesman for King’s College Hospital said: ‘We are in the process of reviewing staff testing.’