Experts Warn of Larger Increases in COVID-19 Cases

Peter Russell

March 06, 2020

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK has continued to rise.

An increase of 48 cases to 163 on Friday was largest jump in one day. That was overtaken on Sunday with a 64 case rise to 273. 

On Friday, Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the second coronavirus death in the UK: "Sadly, we can confirm that a man in his early 80s being cared for at the hospital has died. The man, who had underlying health conditions, tested positive for coronavirus shortly before his death on Thursday, March 5th."

On Sunday evening, the third UK death was announced. A spokesperson for North Manchester General Hospital said: "We can confirm that sadly a patient being treated for COVID-19 has died at our specialist regional Infectious Diseases unit at North Manchester General Hospital.

"The man in his 60s tested positive after travelling to Italy and had a number of underlying health problems."

John Edmunds, professor in the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Ongoing transmission has probably been established now. Hence, it is likely that we will see increasing numbers of daily counts.

"Indeed, as epidemics usually increase exponentially, we can expect these increases to get bigger and bigger over the coming days and weeks."

The UK's first death linked to the virus came on Thursday when a woman with underlying health conditions died in hospital in Reading.

A British man also died from the virus last week after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

Funding Boost

A £46 million package to help fund the fight against COVID-19, and to develop a vaccine, was announced by the Government.

The money, from the UK's international development budget, would support efforts concentrated on eight possible coronavirus vaccines currently under development, Downing Street said.

In a statement, it said the additional support would bring the UK's investment into COVID-19 vaccine research to £65 million.

On a visit to a laboratory in Bedfordshire developing diagnostic testing kits, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage.

"But we also need to invest now in researching the vaccines that could help prevent future outbreaks."

Yesterday, Prof Chris Whitty, the Government's chief medical adviser, told a Parliamentary committee that a viable vaccine was unlikely for the first wave of coronavirus, mainly because of the need for patient safety trials.

A Notifiable Disease

COVID-19 was added to the list of notifiable diseases as part of an ongoing effort to thwart its spread.

The change requires GPs to report all cases of the virus to Public Health England. Medical practitioners must complete a notification form immediately on diagnosis of a suspected notifiable disease.

Health professionals have 3 days to submit the form, or 24 hours to notify the authorities in urgent cases.

Notification of infectious diseases is the term used to refer to the statutory duties for reporting notifiable diseases in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.

The change was made by adding COVID-19 and SARS-COV-2 to the list of notifiable causative agents under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.

The announcement came in a week which saw a Government 'battle plan' to contain, delay, or mitigate the spread of the virus.

It also saw a warning from the Government's chief medical adviser that in a worst case scenario, infection rates could overwhelm the NHS for a period of time.

The virus has also led to the cancellation of the Diabetes UK Professional Conference which was due to take place in Glasgow later this month. 

Theft of Hospital Hand Gel

Concerns about panic buying in supermarkets by consumers concerned about the impact of the coronavirus triggered the theft of hand sanitiser from a hospital in England.

The Northampton Chronicle said the town's hospital was facing a shortage because patients were stealing it from wards.

It quoted a spokesperson who said that managers were being told to halve the number of hand sanitiser dispensers available on wards to preserve future supplies.

Editor's Note, 6th & 8th March 2020: This article was updated to include news of the second and third UK deathsFind the latest COVID-19 news in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Centre.    

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