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UK News Coronavirus in the UK: Chief Scientific Adviser says '55,000 people already have it'

22:55  17 march  2020
22:55  17 march  2020 Source:   inews.co.uk

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a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The i

Around 55,000 people in the UK already have coronavirus, according to the chief scientific adviser who said the Government's new aim is to limit deaths to fewer than 20,000.

Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The i

Sir Patrick Vallance said the number of predicted deaths was "horrible" and there would still be a huge amount of strain on the health service due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Health Select Committee, asked whether the expected death rate was one fatality for every 1,000 cases, which would mean that there is "potentially 55,000 cases".

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  Coronavirus in the UK: Chief Scientific Adviser says '55,000 people already have it' © Provided by The i

Sir Patrick replied: "We've tried to get a handle on that in Sage (the scientific advisory group for emergencies) and if you put all the modelling information together, that's a reasonable ballpark way of looking at it. It's not more accurate than that."

Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Health Select Committee, asked whether the expected death rate was one fatality for every 1,000 cases (Photo: Getty)

The number of confirmed cases in the UK rose by 407 to 1,950 on Tuesday. Some 71 people have now died from Covid-19, all of whom had underlying health conditions, with 67 of the deaths in England.

A second person in Wales – a 96-year-old – who died after testing positive also had underlying health conditions.

Sir Patrick said the stringent measures introduced on Monday should "have a very significant effect on the peak" and lead to a reduction in cases and deaths after two to three weeks.

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Asked whether it was hoped that deaths could potentially get below 20,000, he said: "If we can get numbers down to 20,000 and below, that's a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to with this outbreak, but that's still horrible, it's still an enormous number of deaths and an enormous pressure on the health service, and having spent 20 years as an NHS consultant as well as an academic, I know what that looks and feels like."

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Much unknown

He warned that much was still unknown about what would happen once people are released from isolation and no longer told to undertake social distancing.

Sir Patrick told MPs the approach had always been to "save lives and protect the vulnerable" by delaying and suppressing the peak of the outbreak and shielding those most likely to be badly hit.

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Sir Patrick also said Mother's Day lunch should be cancelled for millions of families around the country. Regarding the Government's new measures announced this week regarding social distancing for the over-70s, Mr Hunt asked whether that meant the end of Sunday lunches with grandchildren. Sir Patrick replied: "Yes, they [over 70s] shouldn't go."

NHS staff prepare to swab a member of the public at a drive through coronavirus testing site in Wolverhampton (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

He called for a "big increase" in the amount of testing that is done for the virus - more than 50,000 people have been tested in the UK. Asked if testing on the scale of South Korea was required, where 270,000 people have been tested, the chief scientific adviser said: "I think we need a big increase in testing. That's what I'm pushing for very hard. Everyone is working hard to try and make that happen."

But Sir Patrick said it was important not to have people turning up to hospitals for tests and instead a community-based approach was needed, possibly involving the private sector.

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