“The actual number of people infected could be between 5,000 and 10,000, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said.
London(ANN)-Uk government said Anyone with a new persistent cough or high temperature is now advised to self-isolate for seven days, as the UK government moves to the “delay” phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus.
Schools have been advised to cancel trips abroad, and older people and those with pre-existing health concerns have been told not to go on cruises.
PM Boris Johnson said it was “the worst public health crisis for a generation”.
In total, 10 people have now died in the UK with the virus.
There have been 596 confirmed cases across the country. However, the actual number of people infected could be between 5,000 and 10,000, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said.
As part of the new measures, testing will only focus on identifying people with the virus in hospital.
Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting, Mr Johnson said: “Some people compare it to seasonal flu, alas that is not right. Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous.
“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.”
He said there was no need to close schools at the moment – as the Republic of Ireland did just hours earlier.
He explained: “The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good at this time – but of course we are keeping this under review and this again may change as the disease spreads.”
As of 09:00 GMT, a total of 29,764 people had been tested for the virus in the UK. Image copyright Getty Images
The latest two deaths were an 89-year-old and a woman in her 60s – at two hospitals in London. They both had underlying health conditions.
Mr Johnson warned that the number of UK cases will “rise sharply”, and said the next phase of the government’s plan aimed to delay the spread of the virus “and thereby minimise suffering”.
He said even if the peak of the disease is delayed by a “few weeks” the NHS would be in a stronger position to handle it.
Like other countries, the government is also considering calling for the suspension of major public events such as sporting fixtures – but this would be a measure primarily to protect public services.
“The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread – but it does place a burden on other public services,” Mr Johnson said.
Public Health England has released new guidance for those with confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus.
It warns against going to work, school, or public areas, using public transport or taxis – or even going for a walk.
Up to now, under the previous strategy of containment, people were told to self-isolate only if they had the cough and fever but had also been to an affected country recently, or had contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
The delay phase aims to lower the peak impact of the virus and push it away from the winter season – when pressures on the NHS are more acute because of issues including seasonal flu.
Delaying the outbreak’s impact could also buy time for the testing of drugs and development of vaccines and/or improved therapies or tests to help reduce the impact of the disease.