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Coronavirus epidemic in UK is likely, says chief medical officer | World news

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Coronavirus is likely to be spreading undetected in the UK already, with health officials on the brink of moving into the phase of “delaying” rather than trying to “contain” transmission, the chief medical officer has said.

Chris Whitty, who is helping to lead the government’s response, said it was “likely, not definite, that we will move on to onward transmission and an epidemic here in the UK”.

The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.

Justin McCurry

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Whitty said the UK was almost in the second phase of the government’s strategy of trying to contain, delay, research and mitigate the virus.

“When I was here previously, we were firmly in contain stage. Now I think we are on the borderline between containing and delaying. But many of the things you do to contain it also delay it.”

UK cases

Whitty was pressed on whether coronavirus was spreading freely in the UK, with patients contracting the virus from unidentified sources.

He said: “If someone has imported a case and they are isolated, that isn’t community transmission. Even if someone gets it who we know about having the disease and it happens to be passed on in the UK, that also isn’t. It’s when it’s going from person to person to person and we pick it up. That’s what we mean by community transmission. It is likely that will happen if not now then very soon … I think it is likely to be happening at the moment, not definite.”

Whitty gave his assessment as the government designated coronavirus a notifiable disease, which means some companies will be able to seek insurance compensation for coronavirus cancellations.

The move brings England into line with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland which have already added coronavirus to their lists of notifiable diseases.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “To mitigate the impact on businesses, we will register Covid-19 as a notifiable disease. This will help companies seek compensation through their insurance policies in the event of any cancellations they may have to make as a result of the spread of the virus.”

Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, has also suggested that small firms could get cash boosts to help stay afloat.

The government released its coronavirus action plan on Tuesday, showing that sweeping new measures may be necessary if an epidemic occurs.

The Guardian revealed that police investigations into some homicides could be halted and 999 response times extended under contingency plans to help forces cope with a severe coronavirus outbreak.


Schools may be closed, public events cancelled and some doctors called in out of retirement, the government also said.

As the number of confirmed UK cases reached 51, officials said the worst-case scenario was that up to a fifth of the workforce could be off sick during the peak of a potential epidemic.

On Tuesday evening, tests on thousands of patients in hospital intensive care units were ordered by NHS England amid concerns about the possible spread of the virus among people with respiratory problems.

Twelve more people across England tested positive for coronavirus – the second-highest single-day increase in cases to date – with all thought to have contracted it abroad. Eight had recently travelled from Italy, while the others came from Germany, Singapore, Japan and Iran.

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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Sunday

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The latest:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.
  • India records nearly 64,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • More than 2,700 active cases in Australia’s Victoria state have no known source.
  • U.K. records more than 1,000 new infections for 1st time since late June.

The United States has now recorded more than five million cases of COVID-19, with more than 162,000 deaths, since identifying its first confirmed case of the new respiratory illness in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials believe the actual number is perhaps 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all those who are infected have no symptoms.

New cases of infection in the U.S. caused by the novel coronavirus run at about 54,000 a day — and while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states.

Figures compiled this week show that five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia — account for more than 40 per cent of infections.

A sign urging people to practice social distancing is seen outside a bar during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., on Sunday. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive actions bypassing Congress to defer payroll taxes for some Americans and extend unemployment benefits after talks on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said Saturday at a news conference at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

He also signed a memorandum holding off student loan payments and an executive order extending the freeze on evictions.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 119,451 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 103,728 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,017.

Ontario reported its sixth-straight day of fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. There were 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday and one virus-related death.

In Quebec, the government plans to have students return to classrooms at the end of the month, but some parents want schools to offer an option for online learning.

People wearing face masks attend a mass remember the victims of the explosion in Beirut on Sunday in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 35 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 182 — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 15 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases over the weekend, and Nova Scotia hasn’t seen a new case in a week. Both N.L. and N.S. have one active case each.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 19.7 million and more than 728,000 people have died. The United States has had the most cases, with more than 5 million, followed by Brazil with more than 3 million and India with more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, Greek authorities have announced a record daily number of 203 new coronavirus cases. Beginning Monday and ending Aug. 31, everyone must wear a mask in all retail places, as well as all modes of transport other than private cars, the government has decided. People attending church must also do so, though priests are not required to wear masks in church.

Britain recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time since late June. Britain has seen a gradual rise in coronavirus infections since it began lifting lockdown restrictions in mid-June. The government has put the next stage of reopening, which had been due to take effect Aug. 1, on hold for at least two weeks.

A cyclist carrying an ad displaying advice on how to slow the spread COVID-19 rides through the streets of Halifax, U.K., on Sunday. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia-Pacific, the premier of Australia’s Victoria state said more than 2,700 active cases have no known source and remain the primary concern of health authorities. Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also include almost 1,000 health-care workers. The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory wearing of masks, but officials won’t see the results of their efforts for another one to two weeks.

The Indian Medical Association said 196 doctors have died of COVID-19 so far and, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested adequate care for physicians and their families. The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded nearly 64,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,153,010. At least 628,747 patients are still undergoing treatment. India also recorded 861 fatalities, driving the death toll to 43,379.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment performs a COVID-19 test on a person in New Delhi on Sunday. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, Brazil has surpassed a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. And five months after the first reported case, the country is showing no signs of crushing the disease.

The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May, and 905 were recorded in the latest 24-hour period to put Brazil above 100,000. The Health Ministry also said there have been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections. The totals are second only to the United States. And experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

The Archbishop of the City of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Joao Tempesta wearing a mask during a mass to honour victims COVID-19 at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday. (Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus deaths has surpassed 10,000. The Health Department said the country with the world’s fifth-largest caseload now has 553,188 cases and 10,210 deaths.

South Africa makes up more than half the infections on the African continent, where the total number of cases this past week surpassed one million. Experts say the actual number of cases is several times that amount, given the shortage of testing materials and people can have the virus without symptoms.



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Virtual Preparation Allows Miss Nicaragua Amid Pandemic | World News

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For four months, everything was virtual: the modeling and speech classes, the make-up courses and the emotional support session via videoconference. And when eight contestants vying to be Miss Nicaragua did finally start in-person practices, they did so with masks covering their faces.

“We managed to organize the event under the pandemic with masks, social distancing and little money, (but) with talent and creativity,” said Karen Celebertti, who has been running the pageant for two decades in Nicaragua.

On Saturday night, 23-year-old Ana Marcelo, an agroindustrial engineer from Estelí, was crowned Miss Nicaragua in front of a limited audience (two people per contestant spaced safely) plus a production crew of 85. The masks were off the contestants, but the judges wore them and were spaced at a safe distance.

There were portable handwashing stations and doctors taking temperatures.

Celebertti, herself a former local beauty queen, said they had to “reinvent” themselves to pull it off. The novel coronavirus arrived in March just days after they had selected the contestants. It was delayed from May to August to develop protocols that would allow them to compete safely.

“We had trials and classes through Zoom, supervised by me from home,” Celebertti said. “The girls had a speech coach, an image consultant and stylists online who taught them how to do their hair and put on makeup alone. There was no other option.”

In July, they had their first in-person practices, walks down the runway wearing masks. “Each session was supervised by doctors and no one got infected,” she said.

Unlike the massive religious and sporting events allowed and even promoted by the government during the pandemic, the pageant decided to do without the usual boisterous audience cheering their support for the women.

“Some criticized me for doing this event, but we were very careful to be able to do it,” Celebertti said. “The truth is that the people need to see some good news, be entertained.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lebanon information minister quits in first cabinet resignation | Beirut explosion

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Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi asked the cabinet to step down. Photograph: Reuters

He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.

Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.

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