The UK can expect to see widespread infection of the coronavirus “fairly soon”, one of England’s top health officials has warned.
Following a significant rise in the number of UK cases over the weekend – with 12 more confirmed in England and another in Scotland – Public Health England’s medical director, Paul Cosford, said to prepare for more widespread infection in the UK.
He said: “If we do get widespread transmission in the UK the most important thing for us now is to make sure we’re prepared in every possible way to slow the spread of infection so the intensity reduces and we’re able to deal with the consequences.
“We’re not there yet but we’ve got to be prepared for it.”
Cosford, who was doing the morning broadcast rounds on Monday, said that with the increase of cases in the UK, coupled with rising numbers in countries in neighbouring Europe and globally, it was “highly likely” the UK would experience widespread transmission.
An emergency meeting was taking place on Monday morning of the government’s Cobra national security committee, which will sign off a “battle plan” to address the outbreak.
The number of UK cases rose to 36 over the weekend, including a patient in Essex who became the second in the country to test positive without having recently travelled abroad. They included a clinician from the Mount Vernon cancer centre in Middlesex and a GP in Haslemere, Surrey.
If the UK does see more widespread transmission of the virus, further action to reduce social contact may be needed, Cosford added.
“We’ve all got a part to play in slowing the spread of infection. We do need to get to a point where we reduce social contact if we see more widespread infection.
“At the moment we’re in the position of we need to continue life as normal but we need to be prepared for the actions that we may need to take.