Coronavirus: UK cases hit 115 amid fears of spread inside NHS

The UK today confirmed its first coronavirus death in an ‘older patient with underlying health conditions’ as the number of cases jumped to 116 and fears of a crisis gripped Britain.  

NHS officials revealed the unidentified patient tested positive for the killer infection last night at a hospital ran by Royal Berkshire NHS Trust last night before succumbing to the illness today.

Health chiefs refused to give out any further details but said the patient has ‘previously been in and out of hospital’.  

Eight of the 29 new patients caught the virus in Britain, after health chiefs today conceded the killer infection is definitely spreading in the UK and not just among those who have travelled abroad. 

Of the cases, 105 are in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales – which confirmed a second patient had been struck down this afternoon. 

It comes after Number 10 today ratcheted up its response to the second ‘delay’ phase of its ‘battle plan’ because it no longer believes it can prevent an outbreak.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty added there was now a ‘slim to zero’ chance that the virus – which has infected more than 96,000 people worldwide – could be stopped.

And he said elderly people, known to be most likely to die from the coronavirus, did not yet need to batten down the hatches at home and that catching the virus in old age does not mean you would be ‘a goner’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today tried to reassure Britons he would ‘keep the country fed’ during the outbreak, in a bid to stop panic-buyers from raiding supermarket shelves and stockpiling food. 

Supermarket aisles remained bare across the UK today as shoppers continued to scoop up household goods such as hand soap and disinfectant, nappies and baby wipes, as well as dried foods like pasta and rice.

Manufacturers have ramped up production and are working at ‘full capacity’ to ensure shelves can be re-stocked, while retailers are even considering rationing household essentials such as toilet paper in response. 

Final-year medical students could be drafted in to reduce the strain on hospitals in the event of an epidemic, as well as retirees being pulled back into the workforce.

Meanwhile Flybe today blamed the coronavirus outbreak for its sudden collapse – despite long-running financial troubles – which has left thousands of travellers stranded around the country and put 2,000 people’s jobs at risk. 

There are now 90 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Britain, after three more were confirmed in Scotland this morning

Waterbeach Surgery in Cambridge has closed today and was seen being scrubbed by medics in hazmat suits. The practice described the move as a 'routine precautionary measure'

Waterbeach Surgery in Cambridge has closed today and was seen being scrubbed by medics in hazmat suits. The practice described the move as a 'routine precautionary measure'

Waterbeach Surgery in Cambridge has closed today and was seen being scrubbed by medics in hazmat suits. The practice described the move as a ‘routine precautionary measure’

Two patients at King's College Hospital, London, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus

Two patients at King's College Hospital, London, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus

Two patients at King’s College Hospital, London, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus

A patient was diagnosed with the virus at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. The Manchester Evening News reports that the city had five cases confirmed yesterday

A patient was diagnosed with the virus at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. The Manchester Evening News reports that the city had five cases confirmed yesterday

A patient was diagnosed with the virus at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. The Manchester Evening News reports that the city had five cases confirmed yesterday

UK chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, today told Parliament's Health & Social Care Committee that it's 'highly likely' that the coronavirus is now spreading inside the UK

UK chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, today told Parliament's Health & Social Care Committee that it's 'highly likely' that the coronavirus is now spreading inside the UK

UK chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, today told Parliament’s Health & Social Care Committee that it’s ‘highly likely’ that the coronavirus is now spreading inside the UK

A woman is pictured wearing a face mask today at Crufts, a dog show in Birmingham which is expected to attract thousands of visitors

A woman is pictured wearing a face mask today at Crufts, a dog show in Birmingham which is expected to attract thousands of visitors

A woman is pictured wearing a face mask today at Crufts, a dog show in Birmingham which is expected to attract thousands of visitors  

Supermarket shelves have been seen stripped of home cleaning products – the chief medical officer today said the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days

Supermarket shelves have been seen stripped of home cleaning products – the chief medical officer today said the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days

Supermarket shelves have been seen stripped of home cleaning products – the chief medical officer today said the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days

Chopped tomatoes have flown off the shelves in a Tesco store. People have said they are setting up 'contingency plans' in case a disaster strikes in the UK

Chopped tomatoes have flown off the shelves in a Tesco store. People have said they are setting up 'contingency plans' in case a disaster strikes in the UK

Chopped tomatoes have flown off the shelves in a Tesco store. People have said they are setting up ‘contingency plans’ in case a disaster strikes in the UK

On ITV’s This Morning. Boris Johnson insisted he will be guided by scientists – saying there will be a ‘balance’ between ‘draconian’ measures to limit the spread and keeping society functioning

CORONAVIRUS IS SPREADING INSIDE THE UK, SAYS CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER

UK cases of coronavirus will keep rising and infections are taking place between Britons, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said today.

Professor Whitty said hopes of containing the virus largely in its origin site in China were ‘slim to zero’.

He warned ‘community transmission’ was happening in the UK, and the government’s focus had moved from the ‘contain’ phase to focus on efforts to ‘delay’ the spread.

Speaking to Parliament's Health Select Committee about coronavirus cases in the UK, Professor Chris Whitty said today: 'I'm expecting the number only to go up'

Speaking to Parliament's Health Select Committee about coronavirus cases in the UK, Professor Chris Whitty said today: 'I'm expecting the number only to go up'

Speaking to Parliament’s Health Select Committee about coronavirus cases in the UK, Professor Chris Whitty said today: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up’

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Prof Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up. 

‘There are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission, either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

‘That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.’

He added: ‘It is here at very low levels at this point in time, but that should be the working assumption on which we go forward. 

Asked by chairman Jeremy Hunt whether the government had shifted its focus from ‘contain’ to ‘delay’, Prof Whitty said: We are now basically mainly delay.’ 

There are now 90 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK after Scotland declared three more.

Overall, current figures show 80 cases in England, six in Scotland, one in Wales and three in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish government this morning confirmed three new cases of the killer coronavirus, including one in Forth Valley, one in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and another one in Grampian. It said all three cases were contacts of known cases – but told MailOnline it was ‘incorrect’ they had caught the virus in the UK. 

Twenty-five new cases were diagnosed in England this afternoon, including 17 who caught the virus abroad and eight who were infected in the UK. Of the 105 cases in England, 25 are in London, 17 in the north-west, 17 in the south-east, 15 in the south-west, 10 in the north-east and Yorkshire, nine in the midlands, eight in the east. Four have yet to be determined.  

Wales then confirmed its second case moments after the Department of Health updated its toll, saying a patient in Cardiff had tested positive after returning home from a trip to northern Italy – the centre of Europe’s escalating crisis. MailOnline understands this case wasn’t counted in the UK toll announced at 4pm, meaning the total number of infected patients in the UK is 116. 

As the new cases were diagnosed in the UK and the Prime Minister sought to reassure millions of Brits:  

  • Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned trains and buses can harbour the killer germs as he urged people to wash their hands and stop touching their mouths and admitted ICU beds in the NHS could come under intense pressure during the outbreak;
  • The competition watchdog warned firms could be prosecuted or fined if they hike prices on products such as hand sanitisers and disinfectants as people continue to panic about the coronavirus;
  • Fears the virus is spreading inside the NHS grew after it was revealed at least four staff and a patient and student at King’s College Hospital are among those to have been diagnosed;
  • An international poll found Britons were among the most relaxed people in the world about the threat of coronavirus – but are also the least likely to take precautions;
  • Six Nations rugby chiefs confirmed that Italy’s home match against England on March 14 was postponed due to the coronavirus crisis;
  • Europe’s largest regional airline Flybe collapsed into administration, blaming coronavirus for ‘making a difficult situation worse’ – despite long-running financial troubles;
  • ITV revealed travel companies are deferring their TV advertising because of the disease, with advertising revenue due to drop 10 per cent in April;
  • The Grand Princess cruise ship, with around 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew, is being held off the coast of California after a former passenger died from Covid-19;
  • Investment bank Goldman Sachs warned the coronavirus outbreak is set to push the UK economy to the brink of recession in the coming months;
  • Final-year medical students could be drafted in to reduce the strain on hospitals, as well as retirees being pulled back into the workforce;
  • Calls to the NHS 111 helpline are up 40 per cent on the same time last year amid the crisis;
  • A Spanish coronavirus patient recovered after being treated with an HIV drug that stops the deadly virus replicating, raisin hopes of a cure;
  • HSBC today evacuated part of its UK headquarters after a worker tested positive for coronavirus in the first known case at the heart of London’s financial district.
Supermarket aisles remained desolate across the country today as shoppers continue to scoop up dried foods like pasta and rice

Supermarket aisles remained desolate across the country today as shoppers continue to scoop up dried foods like pasta and rice

Supermarket aisles remained desolate across the country today as shoppers continue to scoop up dried foods like pasta and rice

Pasta had also been stripped off the shelves at this Tesco store. Supermarkets are reportedly having to bolster their stocks of soap, pasta and toilet roll

Pasta had also been stripped off the shelves at this Tesco store. Supermarkets are reportedly having to bolster their stocks of soap, pasta and toilet roll

Pasta had also been stripped off the shelves at this Tesco store. Supermarkets are reportedly having to bolster their stocks of soap, pasta and toilet roll

BEWARE DOOR HANDLES, AD CAMPAIGN WARNS 

Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK.

The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere.

The drive is designed to change people’s attitude to hygiene, amid fears the killer infection could become a seasonal problem.

The ad campaign warns that the coronavirus virus can live on hard surfaces for hours

The ad campaign warns that the coronavirus virus can live on hard surfaces for hours

The ad campaign warns that the coronavirus virus can live on hard surfaces for hours

Health chiefs decided to use the door handle picture after tests showed 96 per cent of people remembered the poster because of the disgust factor.

In comparison, only 85 per cent could recall a poster that simply told people to wash their hands, The Times reports.

A Government source told the newspaper: ‘Just information works on a cognitive level. But disgust works on an emotional level.’

Fears were last night raised that the coronavirus was spreading through the NHS, after two patients at King’s College London and one in Manchester were confirmed to have caught the deadly infection.

However, the hospitals have refused to clarify whether the cases were in patients who caught the virus while in hospital, or before they were admitted. It is also unclear if the Manchester patient had been taken to hospital for  

Healthcare workers may be at high risk of contracting and spreading the virus because they come into close contact with sick people and meet a lot of different patients, visitors and colleagues.

Four healthcare workers are known to be among the infected patients in the UK. One of the first people in the UK to be diagnosed with the virus was a GP working in Brighton, and another hospital doctor in nearby Worthing contracted the illness – it is thought they both stayed in the same chalet in the French Alps as ‘super-spreader’ Steve Walsh. 

The Worthing doctor was believed to have visited a nursing home before they were diagnosed, but was not known to have infected anybody there.

Elderly people are most likely to die if they catch the coronavirus, which caused a disease called COVID-19 and can lead to pneumonia.

But Professor Whitty said today that catching it was not a death sentence for the elderly, even though the fatality rate for over-80s is almost one in 10.

He said: ‘Even in the most vulnerable, oldest groups, in the very stressed health service which Hubei was at the point when most of the data come out of, the great majority of people who caught this virus – and not everybody will – survived it, the great majority, over 90 per cent.

 ‘So, I think it’s easy to get a perception that if you are older and you get this virus then you’re a goner. 

‘Absolutely not, the great majority of people will recover from this virus, even if they are in their 80s.’

The chief medical officer and Jeremy Hunt, chair of Parliament’s health select committee have said the Government has now moved into the second phase of its coronavirus action plan, the ‘delay’ phase.

Phase one of four – ‘contain’ – was intended to isolate small numbers of cases and stop the virus spreading inside the UK but appears to have failed.

Professor Whitty said there was now evidence of community transmission between people who had no connections to overseas cases or returning travellers.

He said: ‘We have moved from a situation where we are mainly in contain, with some delay built in, to we are now mainly delay.’

Trying to push a major epidemic back to the summer might be useful if it could slow the virus’s spread – it is thought to spread faster in the cold – and could mean it hits the NHS at a time when it’s less pressed.

Professor Whitty warned that access to critical care beds could be under the most pressure in the NHS as the virus escalates.

Medical students – final year junior doctors – could even be drafted in and given more clinical responsibilities if an epidemic breaks out, in a bid to help the NHS to cope with soaring numbers of patients. 

There have already been discussions about asking retired doctors to return to the workforce to help if NHS staff have to go off sick – the Government’s worst case scenario predictions suggest up to one in five people (13million) could have to take time off work. 

Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK. The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK. The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK. The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

A passenger wears a face mask while riding the London Underground today as infections rapidly approached triple digits in the UK

A passenger wears a face mask while riding the London Underground today as infections rapidly approached triple digits in the UK

A passenger wears a face mask while riding the London Underground today as infections rapidly approached triple digits in the UK

Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk through Piccadilly Circus - normally a bustling tourist hotspot - in  central London

Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk through Piccadilly Circus - normally a bustling tourist hotspot - in  central London

Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk through Piccadilly Circus – normally a bustling tourist hotspot – in  central London

More than 96,000 people around the world have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus and more than 3,300 have died

More than 96,000 people around the world have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus and more than 3,300 have died

More than 96,000 people around the world have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus and more than 3,300 have died

Grounded Flybe planes are pictured at Birmingham Airport today after the airline went bust last night. It has cancelled all flights with immediate effect and its jets were impounded

Grounded Flybe planes are pictured at Birmingham Airport today after the airline went bust last night. It has cancelled all flights with immediate effect and its jets were impounded

Grounded Flybe planes are pictured at Birmingham Airport today after the airline went bust last night. It has cancelled all flights with immediate effect and its jets were impounded

A coronavirus isolation pod is pictured outside St Thomas' Hospital in south London – all hospitals in England have been ordered to set up the facilities so suspected coronavirus patients can speak to a specialist away from public areas

A coronavirus isolation pod is pictured outside St Thomas' Hospital in south London – all hospitals in England have been ordered to set up the facilities so suspected coronavirus patients can speak to a specialist away from public areas

A coronavirus isolation pod is pictured outside St Thomas’ Hospital in south London – all hospitals in England have been ordered to set up the facilities so suspected coronavirus patients can speak to a specialist away from public areas

NHS coronavirus isolation pods are all equipped with a phone and a chair. Each must be thoroughly cleaned between visitors

NHS coronavirus isolation pods are all equipped with a phone and a chair. Each must be thoroughly cleaned between visitors

NHS coronavirus isolation pods are all equipped with a phone and a chair. Each must be thoroughly cleaned between visitors

WHAT ARE OTHER COUNTRIES DOING TO TRY AND STOP CORONAVIRUS SPREADING?

Italy, which is battling its own crisis with more than 3,000 people infected and 107 dead, has urged residents to avoid kissing and has closed all its schools for a fortnight.   

The government has put 11 towns into total lockdown and is also considering closing cinemas and theatres and banning large public events, The Guardian reported.

People over the age of 75 have been told to stay at home to avoid getting ill.

In France, a country with around 285 infections, people have been advised to stop using the traditional cheek kiss greeting, la bise, and officials are urging citizens to wash their hands regularly.

The government has commandeered the entire country’s supply of face masks so it can make sure there are enough for medical workers and coronavirus patients.

Supermarket shelves are reportedly being stripped bare in Germany, where the government advises that households always keep at least 10 days’ worth of supplies in case of a disaster.

The outbreak in Germany has worsened in recent days and there are now at least 349 people confirmed to have the infection – more than any county in the Far East except China or South Korea.  

And in Spain, where there have been 222 cases, officials have advised that crowds be banned from some international sports matches and that large events be cancelled.

A batch of three new coronavirus infections in Scotland today doubled the country’s tally to six.

The Scottish Government announced that the people who had been diagnosed were ‘clinically well’ and receiving ‘appropriate care’. They are all known contacts of existing cases and are believed to have caught the virus inside the UK. 

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, reassured the public that Scotland is well prepared for an outbreak and said: ‘Clinicians are now conducting contact tracing, the process of gathering details of the places those who have tested positive visited and the people they have been in contact with.

‘Close contact involves either face-to-face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person. 

‘The risk is very low in situations where someone may have passed a patient on the street or in a shop.

‘Health protection teams will contact those who are at risk from the current cases – those who are not contacted are not at risk.’   

Exact whereabouts of many UK patients are unknown but 80 are known to be in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and one in Wales. 

The Department of Health in England yesterday changed tack and announced it would no longer give running updates about where each patient is nor where they caught the infection.

Officials were accused of ‘secrecy’ and one critic said the public should be given as much information as possible so they could protect themselves – authorities in Singapore reveal the exact street where each case is diagnosed.

As the number of coronavirus cases is surging in the UK – it has risen from 13 to 90 in the past week – there are increasing concerns about the NHS’s ability to cope if an epidemic breaks out.

Calls to the NHS 111 helpline are up 40 per cent on the same time last year.

More than 442,000 calls were placed to the 24/7 helpline between February 24 and March 1 – an average of 63,000 each day.

The Government is urging people to wash their hands more often than usual and to use hot water and soap for 20 seconds at a time

The Government is urging people to wash their hands more often than usual and to use hot water and soap for 20 seconds at a time

The Government is urging people to wash their hands more often than usual and to use hot water and soap for 20 seconds at a time

In comparison, the figure for the same week last year was just 320,000 – or 45,000 calls per day.

The NHS today said call handlers are working ’round the clock’ to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Disgruntled patients have complained they have waited four hours for a call back or in the case of one IT worker, four days.

The NHS has already announced it would plough an extra £1.7million into the service to recruit an additional 500 staff, and set up a new coronavirus advice website.     

One of the confirmed cases is a female NHS worker in her thirties in Cumbria who caught the virus while on a family holiday in Italy. 

Three other workers in the health service are known to be among the 90. 

A GP in Brighton and a hospital doctor in nearby Worthing were among the first cases to be diagnosed in the UK in early February, after they went on holiday together with a man who caught it in Singapore.

And an NHS employee working out of offices in Maidstone, Kent, was also confirmed to have caught the disease. 

Professor Whitty said NHS staff would be urged to be extra careful about their own health and stay home from work if they felt ill.

He said he believed infections among NHS workers would be ‘similar to other areas’ because staff would be told to curb their usual habits of working through illness.

‘NHS staff are remarkably determined to come and serve their professions,’ he told ministers today.

‘They may come in with quite significant feelings of unwellness… We would definitely not wish them to do that in this situation.’ 

Asked whether he thought the NHS could cope with the pressure of an outbreak, Professor Whitty added that he expected it to fare better than hospitals in Wuhan.

He said: ‘At a peak, like Hubei, for short period of time their system was overwhelmed. 

‘We would not expect our system to be overwhelmed but would expect it to be radically changed.

‘[This is] one of the reasons we are hoping to see if people who are recently retired might, for a very short period of time, come in to fill gaps.

‘For sure, nobody would claim that we will have the optimal number of nurses but the system will flex around that.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on This Morning today when he said life will go on as usual for the majority of people in the UK, and again hammered home advice for people to wash their hands as often as they can

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on This Morning today when he said life will go on as usual for the majority of people in the UK, and again hammered home advice for people to wash their hands as often as they can

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on This Morning today when he said life will go on as usual for the majority of people in the UK, and again hammered home advice for people to wash their hands as often as they can

A huge public information campaign is urging the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

A huge public information campaign is urging the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

A huge public information campaign is urging the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere

A woman who works at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, is one of at least four NHS workers to have caught the coronavirus already. She caught the illness in Italy and travelled home through Germany

A woman who works at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, is one of at least four NHS workers to have caught the coronavirus already. She caught the illness in Italy and travelled home through Germany

A woman who works at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, is one of at least four NHS workers to have caught the coronavirus already. She caught the illness in Italy and travelled home through Germany 

The government's battle plan has been divided into four stages – 'Contain', 'delay', 'research' and 'mitigate'

The government's battle plan has been divided into four stages – 'Contain', 'delay', 'research' and 'mitigate'

The government’s battle plan has been divided into four stages – ‘Contain’, ‘delay’, ‘research’ and ‘mitigate’ 

Eight of the new coronavirus cases – three in England, four in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland – caught the deadly infection in the UK, sparking fears the virus is rapidly spreading across the home nations.

The ripple effects of the spreading virus started to be felt among businesses in London and across the UK as companies sent employees home and locked down their offices.  

Sony and Nike yesterday closed offices in London and Sunderland ‘out of an abundance of caution’ as they order deep cleans of their buildings after employees were potentially exposed to the virus.

US accountancy firm Deloitte confirmed an employee from its London office was diagnosed with the coronavirus after travelling to Asia, and Goldsmith’s University confirmed a visitor to its student halls had fallen ill, sending tremors through the student community.

An Apple store in Belfast was seen being deep-cleaned by staff in hazmat suits yesterday – at least one case has been diagnosed in the Northern Irish city – and an office building in London’s Mayfair was closed.  

The office of Method Investments and Advisory Ltd was deserted after the building management allegedly told staff that somebody based there had been infected.

Government officials have been criticised for changing their policy on releasing the locations of coronavirus patients in England.

It had been doing so with every update until yesterday, and the Department of Health said it will now only provide weekly updates on Fridays.

Professor Whitty told the government’s Health and Social Care Committee this morning that, in future, it intends to provide rolling data and even a map.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, appearing on ITV’s This Morning today, said: ‘It’s very important we are transparent.

‘PHE [Public Health England] needs to be absolutely sure of diagnosis so they’re immediately identifying regions that have incidents and then, within 24 hours, confirming the exact location.’  

The number of new cases of coronavirus is now more than 10 times as high outside China as it is within the country, where the outbreak started

The number of new cases of coronavirus is now more than 10 times as high outside China as it is within the country, where the outbreak started

The number of new cases of coronavirus is now more than 10 times as high outside China as it is within the country, where the outbreak started

A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon this morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser

A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon this morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser

A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon this morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen leaving the back of Downing Street this morning. Since he launched his coronavirus battle plan on Tuesday the number of confirmed infections in the UK has more than doubled from 40 to 90

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen leaving the back of Downing Street this morning. Since he launched his coronavirus battle plan on Tuesday the number of confirmed infections in the UK has more than doubled from 40 to 90

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen leaving the back of Downing Street this morning. Since he launched his coronavirus battle plan on Tuesday the number of confirmed infections in the UK has more than doubled from 40 to 90

Cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in all corners of the UK, in at least 10 counties in England as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All NHS hospitals now have dedicated coronavirus isolation pods where suspected cases can speak to a specialist on the phone away from public areas

Cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in all corners of the UK, in at least 10 counties in England as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All NHS hospitals now have dedicated coronavirus isolation pods where suspected cases can speak to a specialist on the phone away from public areas

Cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in all corners of the UK, in at least 10 counties in England as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All NHS hospitals now have dedicated coronavirus isolation pods where suspected cases can speak to a specialist on the phone away from public areas

NHS 111 HELPLINE CALLS SURGE AMID CORONAVIRUS TENSION

Calls to NHS 111 are up 40 per cent on last year with thousands of anxious Britons ringing for advice about coronavirus.

More than 442,000 calls were placed to the 24/7 helpline between February 24 and March 1 – an average of 63,000 each day.

In comparison, the figure for the same week last year was just 320,000 – or 45,000 calls per day.

The NHS today said call handlers are working ’round the clock’ to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Disgruntled patients have complained they have waited four hours for a call-back or, in the case of one IT worker, four days.

The NHS has already announced it would plough an extra £1.7million into the service to recruit an additional 500 staff, and set up a new coronavirus advice website.

A former regional director for Public Health England, Professor Paul Ashford, told The Guardian the government needed to be more up-front with its data.

He said: ‘They should be sharing the data as much as possible, to make the public equal partners in tackling this and help them make decisions about their own lives.

‘The public needs to know if it’s in their area on a daily basis.’ 

In his meeting with the health committee today, Professor Whitty said he expects the number of people infected in the UK to increase and that it was unlikely that officials would be able to prevent an outbreak.  

He warned ‘community transmission’ was happening in the UK, and the government’s focus had moved from the ‘contain’ phase to focus on efforts to ‘delay’ the spread. 

Professor Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up. 

‘There are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission.

‘Either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

‘That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.’

A person wearing a hazmat suit and gas mask was pictured at Nike's headquarters in Sunderland, yesterday, where offices were closed for deep cleaning after the company said employees may have come into contact with people with the coronavirus

A person wearing a hazmat suit and gas mask was pictured at Nike's headquarters in Sunderland, yesterday, where offices were closed for deep cleaning after the company said employees may have come into contact with people with the coronavirus

A person wearing a hazmat suit and gas mask was pictured at Nike’s headquarters in Sunderland, yesterday, where offices were closed for deep cleaning after the company said employees may have come into contact with people with the coronavirus

Staff in hazmat suits were seen carrying out a deep clean at the Apple store in Belfast. There has been at least one case confirmed in the Northern Irish city

Staff in hazmat suits were seen carrying out a deep clean at the Apple store in Belfast. There has been at least one case confirmed in the Northern Irish city

Staff in hazmat suits were seen carrying out a deep clean at the Apple store in Belfast. There has been at least one case confirmed in the Northern Irish city

A member of staff at accountancy firm Deloitte tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from Asia (pictured, Deloitte's London office on New Street Square, Holborn). The office building is undergoing deep cleaning and the patient is now in hospital

A member of staff at accountancy firm Deloitte tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from Asia (pictured, Deloitte's London office on New Street Square, Holborn). The office building is undergoing deep cleaning and the patient is now in hospital

A member of staff at accountancy firm Deloitte tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from Asia (pictured, Deloitte’s London office on New Street Square, Holborn). The office building is undergoing deep cleaning and the patient is now in hospital

VIRGIN ATLANTIC TAKES 20% PAY CUT AS AIRLINE HITS VIRUS TURBULENCE 

Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive will take a 20 per cent pay cut as coronavirus fears continue to batter airlines across the world.

Shai Weiss’s salary will drop between April and July. The rest of the leadership team will have a 15 per cent pay cut over the four months. 

The British airline also revealed it will waive fees for customers wanting to change the dates of flights booked in March.

And it postponed plans to introduce its new long-haul flight from London Heathrow to Sao Paulo, Brazil, because of the decline. 

Virgin, owned by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, claimed the ‘sensible steps’ would ‘ensure we are in a stronger position’ once the coronavirus crisis is over.

The Financial Times reports Virgin Atlantic suffered a 40 per cent drop in customer demand compared with March last year.

Virgin Atlantic’s route to Sao Paulo was meant to launch at the end of the March, but is now being put off until October.

Damning figures from the International Air Transport Association yesterday showed airlines have suffered their worst month in a decade because of the outbreak.

The group’s chief economist Brian Pearce said airlines are now in ‘a crisis zone’, with more than 95,000 cases recorded across the world.

He warned passenger numbers are at their lowest rate since the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud disaster of April 2010.

Government officials have warned that up to 20 per cent of the UK’s workforce could be off sick if a full-blown epidemic breaks out on home soil.

But, in a massive boost for workers, it was yesterday announced that people will get statutory sick pay on the first day of their illness instead of the fourth, amid fears employees may not get paid if they take time off because of coronavirus.  

England’s chief medical officer yesterday warned the coronavirus will kill Britons and added an epidemic was ‘highly likely’ as the outbreak in Britain continues to accelerate. 

Professor Whitty’s chilling message for Britain’s 66million residents came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted earlier this week that people’s lives may have to be put on hold for up to three months to fight the deadly virus.  

Under the government’s ‘battle plan’, schools could be shut, millions forced to work from home and people asked to stop eating out, going to the pub or shopping in a bid to keep them away from others.

Official disaster projections suggest as many as half a million people could die if the disease isn’t controlled, but evidence from China – where around 3,000 have died – suggests the real figure would be only a fraction of this.  

Coronavirus fears have now gripped Britain with more than 3,000 people getting tested by the NHS already this week. 

Dramatic commuters have resorted to wearing storage boxes and plastic bags over their heads to avoid catching the disease, while supermarket shelves have been emptied as Brits stockpile hand gels, loo roll and cleaning sprays. 

Leading scientists have admitted the confirmation of cases spreading within the UK was of ‘concern’ and said it was ‘right to be concerned’, adding: ‘We can probably expect to see an increase in the number of cases in the forthcoming days and weeks.’

A commuter wears a face mask as he crosses London Bridge in the capital this morning

A commuter wears a face mask as he crosses London Bridge in the capital this morning

A commuter wears a face mask as he crosses London Bridge in the capital this morning

Photos taken today show brave nurses donning face masks and protective glasses while swabbing patients in their nose and mouth through an open car window in London

Photos taken today show brave nurses donning face masks and protective glasses while swabbing patients in their nose and mouth through an open car window in London

Photos taken today show brave nurses donning face masks and protective glasses while swabbing patients in their nose and mouth through an open car window in London

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out in Northern Ireland, where nurses were seen practicing the procedure at Antrim Area Hospital in Co Antrim this morning

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out in Northern Ireland, where nurses were seen practicing the procedure at Antrim Area Hospital in Co Antrim this morning

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out in Northern Ireland, where nurses were seen practicing the procedure at Antrim Area Hospital in Co Antrim this morning 

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES ‘COULD START HUMAN TRIALS NEXT MONTH’ 

The first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine are expected to begin next month at a university in London and pharmaceutical company in the US.

Scientists at Imperial College in the English capital have been trialling their attempt at a vaccine on animals since mid-February.

And they could move onto human trials – the last phase of development before a drug can be used – as soon as April.

Meanwhile, US pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Inovio have also said they plan to start their own human trials next month.

The coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19 and has infected more than 94,000 people around the world, cannot currently be cured or prevented.

People who catch it have to be isolated and wait for their body to fight off the illness, with medical help if they need it for symptoms or more serious infection.

A working vaccine could stop the bug in its tracks – some experts think it could become a permanent fixture in human society in the same way colds and flu are.

Imperial College has been working on its vaccine since the middle of January when Chinese scientists released the genetic information about the virus.

If low-level human trials are successful, the researchers will then move on to testing the vaccine in the real world where people are at risk of infection.

Passing all those tests could mean the vaccine is available to the public as early as next year.

US pharmaceutical company, Inovio, said it could have a million doses available by the end of the year and Moderna said it will also start human trials in April with aims of fast development.

Speaking on a podcast, Imperial College scientist Professor Robin Shattock said his team and others are creating vaccines ‘at a speed that’s never been realised before’.

He said: ‘Most vaccines would take five years in the discovery phase and at least one to two years to manufacture and get into clinical trials.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, yesterday said the world had ‘tried very hard to stop this virus altogether’ but had failed. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘You can see from the statistics, the number of countries affected that that battle is really over.’

More than 80 nations across the world have now confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

Slovenia, Bosnia and Hungary have become the latest countries to record their first infections, leaving only a handful of European nations that have no cases.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘We’re now moving towards trying to slow the spread to allow the health systems to cope and try to mitigate the impact of the epidemic.’

He added the UK was in the ‘early stage’ of an epidemic and said time is running out to contain the crisis by reducing the spread with drastic measures.

Professor Ferguson did not specify what sort of measures would be needed – but Italy, which is battling its own crisis with more than 3,000 people infected and 107 dead, has urged residents to avoid kissing and has closed all its schools for a fortnight.   

The government has put 11 towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions into total lockdown and is also considering closing cinemas and theatres and banning large public events, The Guardian reported.

People over the age of 75 have been told to stay at home to avoid getting ill.

In France, a country with around 285 infections, people have been advised to stop using the traditional cheek kiss greeting, la bise, and officials are urging citizens to wash their hands regularly.

The government has commandeered the entire country’s supply of face masks so it can make sure there are enough for medical workers and coronavirus patients.

Supermarket shelves are reportedly being stripped bare in Germany, where the government advises that households always keep at least 10 days’ worth of supplies in case of a disaster.

The outbreak in Germany has worsened in recent days and there are now at least 349 people confirmed to have the infection – more than any county in the Far East except China or South Korea.  

And in Spain, where there have been 222 cases, officials have advised that crowds be banned from some international sports matches and that large events be cancelled. 

Potential coronavirus patients are tested at a drive-thru centre in London today as part of a city-wide bid to stop the infection from spreading at hospitals

Potential coronavirus patients are tested at a drive-thru centre in London today as part of a city-wide bid to stop the infection from spreading at hospitals

Potential coronavirus patients are tested at a drive-thru centre in London today as part of a city-wide bid to stop the infection from spreading at hospitals

A test centre has opened at Parsons Green, west London, where people who believe they have contracted Covid-19 can be checked while still sat in their own cars

A test centre has opened at Parsons Green, west London, where people who believe they have contracted Covid-19 can be checked while still sat in their own cars

A test centre has opened at Parsons Green, west London, where people who believe they have contracted Covid-19 can be checked while still sat in their own cars

Speaking about the rising number of cases in the UK, Dr Stephen Griffin, of the University of Leeds, said: ‘It is right to be concerned and prepared, but it is not a time to panic. 

‘The number of cases remains small compared to the UK population and the current strategy of containment is working by and large.

‘Nevertheless, we can probably expect to see an increase in the number of cases in the forthcoming days and weeks; the question is whether cases of unknown origin may start to become more significant.’ 

In an interview with Sky News yesterday, Professor Whitty said: ‘I think it is… almost certain there will be more cases in the UK, probably a lot more cases as the Prime Minister laid out,and we would expect some deaths, yes.’

Professor Whitty told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that people wearing masks in public – including on the London Underground – will have little effect on whether or not they catch coronavirus. 

The individual viruses which cause the disease are so small that they pass through many masks and people may be more likely to get it by touching a contaminated surface and then their face.

And he told presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid: ‘It’s much more likely than not that we’re going to deal with a significant epidemic.

‘If people have got an infection and are being moved around a hospital then wearing masks is a good thing to do but for people just walking the streets it’s not going to have a significant effect.’

Piers Morgan pointed out that those who are buying masks might also contribute to fewer being available for the NHS. 

Retail analyst Patrick O’Brien, Global Data PLC, said: ‘We are seeing that online order slots at grocers are filling up are getting booked up for a couple of days ahead, which is highly unusual.

‘Panic buying raises the risk that products aren’t distributed across the country. Stockpiling is highly negative and very damaging.

‘Stockpiling in itself creates panic, and when people start to see gaps on the shelves it pushes people to jump on board and creates a sense of panic.

‘In these times we need to be thinking of the greater good and no act selfishly. Without panic buying they’ll be no issue.’

Toilet roll manufacturer WEPA UK said: ‘Our careful planning helps us to respond to any spike in demand for our products. So, while the current situation around coronavirus is highly unusual, we are well equipped to deal with it.

‘When there is a spike in demand from consumers for a product, we work closely with our retail partners and distribution network to manage it effectively. This can involve calling on our logistics teams to mobilise more transport in order to get products where they need to be, quickly and efficiently.’

‘At WEPA UK, we have close links with our retailers, which enable us to monitor consumer demand in real-time. We receive daily updates on how products are selling and broader consumer habits. Using this data, we work jointly with them to forecast when to dial up or down production.’

Firms hit by coronavirus panic-buying ‘significantly increase’ production

Firms are ramping up production to cope with the massive demand brought on by coronavirus – as terrified Britons strip supermarket shelves of essentials. 

Shops including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose are looking increasingly desolate as people begin stockpiling household goods.

Pictures show empty aisles as sections for hand soap and disinfectant, nappies and baby wipes as well as dried goods such as pasta and rice are cleared. 

Thirty-four new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed in the UK yesterday – the biggest one-day rise so far – and a total of 90 people in Britain have now caught it. 

Supermarkets have told of how they are putting plans in place to cope with the unprecedented demand – as the number of cases is expected to rise. 

Firms have ramped up production and are working at ‘full capacity’ to ensure shelves can be re-stocked as analysts predict retailers ‘will keep the country fed.’

Retailers are even considering rationing household essentials such as toilet paper in response to panic buying, with some shoppers spending £900 online. 

It comes as the new chief of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey today warned businesses will need a bailout from government to get over the crisis. 

The Government’s Competition and Markets Authority has warned retailers and traders they could be prosecuted for trying to ‘exploit’ the coronavirus outbreak by selling protective products at inflated prices, adding it would consider asking the Government to introduce price controls if needed. 

A London supermarket's toilet paper aisle is left bare amid reports of stockpiling across the UK

A London supermarket's toilet paper aisle is left bare amid reports of stockpiling across the UK

A London supermarket’s toilet paper aisle is left bare amid reports of stockpiling across the UK

Harrogate, North Yorkshire: This is the empty handsoap section in the historic town's Morrisons

Harrogate, North Yorkshire: This is the empty handsoap section in the historic town's Morrisons

Harrogate, North Yorkshire: This is the empty handsoap section in the historic town’s Morrisons

A spokesman for PZ Cussons, which owns the popular Carex brand, spoke of how supermarket shortages were due to demand for its products.

‘We have significantly increased the production of Carex hand gel and hand wash products, with our manufacturing facilities working at full capacity in response to the exceptional demand being experienced,’ he added. 

‘We continue to work closely with our retail partners to ensure they are supplied as quickly as possible.’

Sainsbury’s said that ‘due to increased demand we have limited availability across our antibacterial ranges. We are working with our suppliers to secure more stock.’

It is not only cleaning materials that have been popular with customers.

Items including toilet rolls, crisps, bottled water, and pasta as well as ‘mega packs’ of detergents, dishwasher tablets and disinfectant have been snapped up. 

Senior food markets analyst Bruno Monteyne, a former Tesco executive, warned earlier this week: ‘If a major [coronavirus] outbreak happens, that will quickly lead to panic buying, empty shelves and food riots.’  

Mr Monteyne, who now works for stockbrokers Bernstein, told industry magazine The Grocer: ‘Plans are surely being drawn up with suppliers to rationalise product ranges when necessary. The objective isn’t to scaremonger… the industry has plans to deal with this.

‘Yes, it will be chaotic – and expect pictures of empty shelves – but the industry will keep the country fed.’

Twitter user @drinkwithasmile said his local supermarket had sold out of toilet roll, adding 'People really need to calm down!'

Twitter user @drinkwithasmile said his local supermarket had sold out of toilet roll, adding 'People really need to calm down!'

Twitter user @drinkwithasmile said his local supermarket had sold out of toilet roll, adding ‘People really need to calm down!’

People have shared photos of trolleys piled with stockpiled goods – canned foods and toilet paper appear to be a staple

People have shared photos of trolleys piled with stockpiled goods – canned foods and toilet paper appear to be a staple

People have shared photos of trolleys piled with stockpiled goods – canned foods and toilet paper appear to be a staple

Manufacturers said they were having to ramp up production to cope with demand

Manufacturers said they were having to ramp up production to cope with demand

Manufacturers said they were having to ramp up production to cope with demand

Twitter user Ezra said they were buying essentials as a 'contingency plan if things get even worse in the UK'

Twitter user Ezra said they were buying essentials as a 'contingency plan if things get even worse in the UK'

Twitter user Ezra said they were buying essentials as a ‘contingency plan if things get even worse in the UK’

A survey suggests around half of retailers are having problems ordering new stock, particularly from overseas, as a result of coronavirus. 

The survey was commissioned by Retail Economics, which also warned: ‘Over a third – 39 per cent – of consumers are worried about product shortages as a result of the coronavirus, which has led to almost one in ten consumers to stockpile.’

Shoppers visiting Costo warehouses reported a shortage of both anti-bacterial cleaners and toilet paper. 

At the same time, a snapshot Daily Mail survey suggested there is a national rush to buy toilet paper, kitchen roll, large packs of pasta, rice, disinfectant, wipes, painkillers and Calpol medicine for children.

Shop staff complained that some people have grabbed trolley-fulls of loo rolls and other essentials, leaving others empty handed.

One industry source said: ‘Retailers regularly place limits on items in order to avoid one customer clearing them out.’

Just as supermarkets are seeing a spike in sales of canned and packaged products, there has also been a surge in online grocery orders.

A leading retail source said people are spending 5 to 10 per cent more than usual on an average online basket. And some shoppers have been spending up to £900 at one go.

The source said: ‘We don’t want people panic buying. There’s no need to go over the top but it is not a bad idea to have a few things in the cupboard anyway, regardless of coronavirus.’

He added: ‘There could be issues around large numbers of people being off sick. If, for example, the staff at the abattoir or the poultry farm can’t get to work then we won’t get the supplies.’

Retailers are taking emergency measures to cope with the impact of coronavirus on factories and suppliers overseas. Some have started stockpiling pasta, mozzarella and coffee to reduce the threat to imports.

Chief executive of Retail Economics, Richard Lim, said: ‘While the impacts may not yet be apparent on shop shelves, around a third of retailers suggested that “continuity of supply” is currently their biggest concern.

‘Of even greater concern for other retailers is the impact on consumer confidence. Consumers are also increasingly nervous about access to essential items.’

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