Armed police to guard bird flu drugs

The drugs will be handed out at chemists and specialist walk-in centres to prevent doctors being overwhelmed by demand.

The new measures, contained in Department of Health documents, follow a realisation that the health service will be unable to cope as the virus sweeps through the country.

The disclosure comes as the body of an imported parrot, which died in quarantine from flu, was being tested last night to see if it had the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease which has killed 60 people in Asia. The World Health Organisation fears the strain may mutate to cause a worldwide pandemic, which could kill up to 150 million people.

Ministers believe a quarter of Britons would catch the disease within three months of it arriving in the country and are preparing for 50,000-750,000 deaths.

They are stockpiling 14.6 million doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which lessens the effects of the disease and, it is hoped, would save many lives. But they expect GP surgeries to be overwhelmed and panic-stricken people to try to raid supplies.

Armed police will be ready to guard stocks of the drugs, though the Army will not be called in. "We do not put troops on the street in this country," said one senior source.

Chemists will be authorised to dispense the drugs and special centres will be set up.

Experts working for the Department of Health say just half the required number of intensive care beds could be provided if bird flu struck today. Professor David Menon, of the Intensive Care Society, has told a Lords committee that "current ICU resources would be overwhelmed" if just 15 per cent of patients required high-level care.

Hospital managers have been told to start working on plans to convert operating theatres into makeshift wards to cope with up to 6,000 cases a day.

A minister said the Government was considering dispatching supplies of the drugs to poultry workers as a preventative measure. "We need to be careful not to provoke panic or hurt industry unnecessarily, but we won't let commercial considerations affect our actions," said one government figure.

But the Government is poised to reject a plea at an emergency meeting of health ministers in Ottawa tomorrow from Canada and Mexico that each country should donate a tenth of its stockpiles to developing countries to head off the emergence of a pandemic.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Instructional Training Designer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic and interes...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse & Stores Supervisor

    £16224 - £20280 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Warehouse & Stores Supervisor...

    Recruitment Genius: Windows 3rd Line System Administrator

    £35000 - £39000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifting Equipment Service / Installation Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Lifting Equipment Service/Ins...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen