Coronavirus: UK has been lucky so far, says Chief Medical Officer

4 March 2020, 09:33 | Updated: 4 March 2020, 12:24

By Adrian Sherling

The UK has been lucky not to have a larger outbreak of coronavirus so far, the Chief Medical Officer has told LBC.

The UK has had 53 cases of covid-19 as of Wednesday morning, while other European countries have seen a greater number of victims.

Italy has seen over 2,500 cases of coronavirus, with more than 50 deaths, while France, Germany and Spain have all seen a far higher number.

And Professor Chris Whitty told Nick Ferrari that luck has played a part that the UK has not been harder hit.

Speaking on LBC, he said: "Part of it - and we have to be honest about this - is that we ha been lucky, not having importations that people missed.

"But a large part is down to incredibly hard work by NHS staff and Public Health England staff identifying cases really early, isolating them and following their changes of contacts which then means it doesn't get into the community.

"This is a very good way of both of containing it - if it is containable - but also slowing down the spread so we can delay it, which is very important to us."

Nick Ferrari spoke to the Chief Medical Officer about coronavirus advice
Nick Ferrari spoke to the Chief Medical Officer about coronavirus advice. Picture: PA / LBC

Professor Whitty added that a vaccine will take up to a year to develop, even if a good candidate is ready for testing shortly.

How to protect yourself from coronavirus

People need to reinvoke the slogan "Catch it, bin it, kill it, wash your hands". That is the simple answer because it's a respiratory illness.

You should treat it in the same way you treat a cold: use alcohol-based anti-bacterial soaps and sprays, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth and avoid contact with people who are infected.

The government is suggesting people wash their hands more often - after being outside, before eating and every time they sneeze or cough.

You should wash your hands for 20 seconds - for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice - with soap and hot water. This will help slow the spread of the virus.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms are similar to a seasonal fllu, including:
- headache
- cough
- fever
- shortness of breath
- chills
- body aches

In most cases, you won't know whether you have a Coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus.

But if a Coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, such as your lungs, it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people.