In Brief

Coronavirus: UK advice ‘may change soon’ as Italy goes into full lockdown

UK chief medical officer says people may be asked to self-isolate within 10 to 14 days from now

Boris Johnson said yesterday the government may soon ask people with even mild symptoms of respiratory infections to stay at home, hours before Italy was placed under lockdown as the authorities there struggled to contain the worst outbreak of coronavirus outside China.

Johnson, accompanied by the UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, last night said the Cobra emergency committee had decided it was not yet time to abandon the “containment” phase of the response to the outbreak.

The UK had 319 confirmed cases of coronavirus at 9am yesterday - an increase of 46 over the previous 24 hours. Two more deaths of British patients with the disease were announced yesterday - both victims were in their 70s with underlying health problems.

Whitty said that within 10 to 14 days, advice on handling infection could change so that people with even mild symptoms of respiratory infections – for instance, a cough – would be asked to stay at home for seven days to avoid passing on the bug.

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“All intensive care patients will now be tested for the virus,” the BBC reports, “as well as anyone in hospital with a respiratory infection.”

Johnson praised the “brilliant” NHS and added: “We will set out further steps in the days and weeks ahead to help people protect themselves, their family and in particularly the elderly and vulnerable. The more we can delay the peak of the spread to the summer, the better the NHS will be able to manage.”

In Italy, meanwhile, draconian new measures to stop the spread of the infection were extended. The entire country is now under lockdown, with a ban on all social gatherings and no travel permitted except for work or family emergencies.

Italy has the worst coronavirus outbreak outside China, with 463 deaths confirmed by yesterday evening. Cases of infection have been confirmed in all 20 regions and a total of 9,172 were known to be infected, a rise of 1,797 in 24 hours.

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