KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — At least 10,000 people in the United Kingdom (UK) may already have the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding that many families will lose loved ones.
This comes even as medical, scientific, and public health experts hammered Johnson’s steps to contain what he described as the “worst public health crisis for a generation”, considered “less stringent” than in other countries.
“It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” Johnson told a press conference in Downing Street yesterday.
Ten people have died in Britain due to Covid-19, while some 596 people have been infected. Experts believe the infection in the UK is expected to peak in May or June, four weeks behind Italy, where 1,000 have died and 15,000 infected.
The Guardian reported Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, as telling the same press conference that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK are thought to have the virus now as it spreads undiagnosed.
Chris Whitty, on the other hand, Britain’s chief medical officer, said the worst-case scenario is that 80 per cent of the country would contract the virus, with a 1 per cent mortality rate — making up more than 500,000 deaths.
Schools in Britain are to remain open and large gatherings such as concerts and sports events will go ahead. In contrast, Scotland banned gatherings of more than 500 people, while Ireland has closed all schools.
Defending criticism of the UK’s approach, Johnson said: “The measures that I have discussed today… staying at home if you think you have the symptoms, your whole household staying at home, looking after the elderly – making sure the elderly and vulnerable stay at home – these are the three most powerful defensive lines.”
Experts quoted in The Guardian report, however, snubbed this, calling for more detailed plans to protect the health of the elderly, and the mobilisation of communities to take action into their own hands.