Coronavirus UK: Sixth person dies after contracting Covid-19

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 10 March 2020 14:48 GMT
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Coronavirus cases: The spread outside China

A sixth person has died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus.

The man was in his early 80s and had underlying health conditions, according to the hospital who treated him.

A West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust spokespersons said: “Sadly, we can confirm that a man who was being cared for at Watford General Hospital, and had tested positive for COVID-19, has died.

"The patient, who died in the evening of Monday March 9th, was in his early 80s and had underlying health conditions.

“His family has been informed and our thoughts and condolences are with them at this difficult and distressing time.”

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the man is thought to have contracted the disease in the UK.

"I am sorry to confirm a sixth patient in England who tested positive for COVID-19 has sadly died," Professor Whitty said. "I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their privacy is respected.

"The patient, who was being treated by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, was in their eighties and had underlying health conditions. It appears the virus was acquired in the UK and full contact tracing has begun.”

The death is the third to be announced in 24 hours. On Monday, officials announced that patients in Wolverhampton and Epsom had died.

The announcement came shortly before the UK was due to reveal updated numbers for the number of people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK.

And it followed warnings that the peak of the epidemic in the UK is expected within the next fortnight, according to England's deputy chief medical officer.

Dr Jenny Harries defended the Government's decision to delay closing schools and the introduction of other stringent tactics, saying experts are assessing new cases on an hourly basis to achieve a "balanced response".

But new measures - including those aimed at protecting the elderly and vulnerable - are expected shortly as cases rise more rapidly across the UK.

Dr Harries said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK are "pretty well" but that they may "feel a bit rough for a few days".

She added: "We can expect a peak in cases, it has a relatively slow take off at the start, that's where we are at the moment, it will start to rise quite sharply."

Asked when the rapid increase of infections might end, she said: "Within 10 to 14 days we will be likely to advise people with symptoms to self-isolate and we are expecting that start of the peak to come within that period."

Staying at home in self-isolation was "extremely effective in trying to move our epidemic curve forward", she added.

Dr Harries said cancelling big outdoor events like football matches would not necessarily be a decision supported by science.

"The virus will not survive very long outside," she said. "Many outdoor events, particularly, are relatively safe."

Speaking on Sky News, Dr Harries said "many thousands of people" would contract coronavirus as the disease continued to spread in the UK.

"We currently have relatively few cases here, which is why we are still in the containment phase," she said.

"Obviously we will have significant numbers in a way in which the country is not used to.

"This is the sort of thing that professionally we're trained for and very rarely see, almost in a professional lifetime.

"Large numbers of the population will become infected because it's a naive population - nobody has got antibodies to this virus currently.

"We will see many thousands of people infected by coronavirus, that's what we're seeing in other countries, and the important thing for us is to make sure that we manage those infections."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said GPs would only visit sick people self-isolating in their own homes if absolutely necessary, due to the fact it is an infectious disease.

She added: "Generally we expect nearly all of these patients to be fine at home, and we are working to ensure, if they need, the few that become seriously ill, to get into hospital, there will be quick mechanisms for them to do that."

The comments came as Italy extended coronavirus travel restrictions to the whole country on Tuesday, with soldiers and police enforcing the bans.

Overall, Italy has recorded 9,172 cases of Covid-19, with 463 deaths, and figures expected to rise.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK amended its advice to warn against all but essential travel to Italy.

Meanwhile, the NHS has removed false Twitter accounts that have been spreading "misleading" information about the coronavirus outbreak.

Official NHS guidance is also to be displayed at the top of internet search results as part of measures to stop the spread of disinformation.

As part of a new range of features for internet platforms, the health service said it had worked with Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on ways to help promote "good advice" when people were searching online.

On Monday, England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said Britons with cold, flu or fever symptoms could soon to be asked to stay at home in self-isolation before too long.

For most people, coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, but for some people such as the elderly or those with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Prof Whitty said the balance would tip so that more and more people would suffer coronavirus rather than regular seasonal flu or other respiratory infections.

He added: "We are expecting the numbers to increase initially quite slowly but really quite fast after a while and we have to catch it before the upswing begins.

"We are now very close to the time, probably within the next 10 to 14 days, when the modelling would imply we should move to a situation where everybody with even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self-isolating for a period of seven days."

In other developments on how the virus is behaving, experts have said people infected with Covid-19 could go five days without showing any symptoms.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated the average incubation period of the virus to be 5.1 days.

Another study found that being older, showing signs of sepsis and having blood clots were key factors associated with a higher risk of death.

Additional reporting by agencies

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