Coronavirus: Government to tell anyone with mild fever to isolate themselves for a weekHerson Abinon
Coronavirus: Government to tell anyone with mild fever to isolate themselves for a week.
Anyone with even a mild fever will be told to isolate themselves for a week as the number of coronavirus victims starts to rise “really quite fast”, the government has announced.
Ministers expect to move to the next stage of fighting the outbreak in 10 to 14 days – a shift from the situation where only people with specific symptoms, or who are at known risk of having contracted the virus – stay at home.
It was announced as Boris Johnson fought off pressure to adopt draconian, Italian-style restrictions – closing down schools, playing sporting events behind closed doors, or mass home-working – insisting they were not yet necessary.
- Italy expands its quarantine from the north of the country to span the entire nation, while also cancelling all public gatherings.
- US stock markets experienced their worst day since the 2008 financial crash, with Donald Trump announcing new tax cut proposals in an attempt to stem the freefall
- The WHO warned the threat of a pandemic was now ‘very real’ in a press conference from Geneva
- South Korea – once the second worst afflicted nation in the world, may be beginning to stabilise, according to President Moon Jae-in
UK experts are worried that if they “go too early”, people will grow tired of such curbs before the peak of the virus is reached in the coming months.
Instead, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer – speaking ahead of the fifth death from Covid-19 being revealed – said the UK was “very close” to imposing the tougher advice on self-isolating.
“We are expecting the numbers to increase, initially slowly, but really quite fast after a while,” he told a press conference, adding: “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 we say everybody who has even a minor respiratory tract infection or a fever should be self-isolating for 7 days afterwards.”
Speaking alongside the prime minister, Mr Whitty said: “This is going to be the next step. We have not reached that step, but we are going to be reaching that step in the really quite near future.”
The development came as Mr Johnson called for “a great national effort” to ensure coronavirus is beaten and as he hinted at further measures to be announced later this week.
He said there was “no hiding from the fact that the coronavirus outbreak will present significant challenges for the UK just as it does in other countries”.
But he added: “If we continue to look out for one another, to pull together in a united and national effort, I have no doubt that we can and will rise to that challenge.”
The UK remained in the “contain” phase of its response, but was “making extensive preparations for a move to the delay phase” – and further restrictions.
However, in the first clear signs of unease at Westminster, the health secretary was asked why more action is not being taken to quarantine travellers from high-risk areas and protect older people.
Rory Stewart, the former Conservative cabinet minister and independent London mayoral candidate, accused the government of “half-hearted efforts” to stop the spread of the virus.
“The government has made a serious mistake today. They should be acting much more aggressively to contain coronavirus. Schools should be shut now,” he said.
Philip Hollobone, a Tory backbencher, said his constituents were struggling to understand why flights were not being banned from quarantined areas of Italy.
And Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, demanded answers on how many ventilators the UK, what advice social care providers have been given to protect the elderly and why the UK was not considering more home working.
But Mr Johnson told the press conference: “We must not do things which have no, or limited, medical benefit – not things that could turn out, actually, to be counterproductive.”
Mr Whitty said it was important not to do too much too soon because “anything we do, we have got to be able to sustain” throughout the peak of the outbreak, and there was a risk people would “understandably get fatigued”.
Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, argued that Italy’s moves to ban flights from affected areas, temperature test passengers at airports, and ban mass gatherings were relatively ineffective.
“We need to understand where we are in the epidemic and make sure that we take the actions that need to be taken at the right time,” he said.
Sir Patrick said the aim would be to lower the mortality rate of those in the at-risk group by 20 to 30 per cent
But he said it would be wrong to try to “suppress” the disease completely, because it could result in an outbreak next winter at a time of maximum pressure for the NHS.
In Italy, the worst afflicted nation in Europe with 9,172 cases, officials said the entire nation would face the same quarantine standards previously applied to 16 million citizens in the north, while all public events would be banned.
Speaking at a televised press conference, Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte said that a new government decree will require all people in Italy to demonstrate a need to work, health conditions or other limited reasons to travel outside the areas where they live.
Alongside travel restrictions, schools and universities already shut down across the nation will extend their closures until 3 April. Meanwhile, a crackdown on restaurants and cafes, which had been told to close at dusk in the north of the country, will now be extended nationwide.
“We have adopted a new decision based on an assumption: that there is no time,” Mr Conte said. “The numbers tell us that we are having a significant growth in infections, in the people hospitalised in intensive and sub-intensive care, and, alas, also in deceased people.
“Our habits therefore must be changed. They must be changed now.”
However restrictions have already begun to take their toll on a frustrated nation and its overcrowded prisons, where inmates rioted in jails across the country after visiting rights were cut to fight the virus.
Seven inmates died in the chaos, which started at the weekend, the justice ministry said.
In the US, stock markets experienced their worst day since the 2008 financial crisis after a crash in oil markets threatened to set off a chain reaction among wary investors.
The Monday selling came after Saudi Arabia and Russia set off a price war for crude oil over the weekend, which sparked panic among investors as prices dipped more than 20 per cent in the sector – the biggest oil market decline since the Gulf War.
In response, Donald Trump gave a sombre press conference in which he said he would announce economic measures on Tuesday and would discuss a payroll tax cut with congress to bolster the economy.
The US president has been keen to attempt to reassure the economy by downplaying the potential impact of the virus while talking up his administration’s response ahead of his 2020 re-election campaign.
Meanwhile the WHO expressed for the first time that the world was on the brink of a global pandemic – language the UN body has avoided using due to its fearful connotations.
The UN health agency’s director general suggested the virus gaining “a foothold in so many countries” meant the risk of a pandemic had increased.
However, striking an optimistic tone, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled.
“The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus,” he said, adding that successes in China and South Korea demonstrated it is “never too late to turn back the tide on this coronavirus”.
In Seoul, President Moon Jae said the nation can enter a “phase of stability” soon if it continues to reduce the number of new cases.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 165 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national tally to 7,478, while the death toll rose by one to 51.
“We must maintain this trend,” he told a meeting of senior aides. “We’ve come this far thanks to the citizens who were united and cooperated well with the government.
”But it’s too early to be optimistic … Please be a little bit more patient and stay away from mass gatherings such as religious events.”
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