UK: Coronavirus death toll climbs to 35

16th Mar 2020
UK: Coronavirus death toll climbs to 35

By Karim El-Bar

 

LONDON (AA) : The U.K. said Sunday 14 more people have died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of fatalities in the country to 35.

Meanwhile, 1,372 people have tested positive for the virus, the Department of Health said.

Speaking to Sky News earlier in the day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government would in the near future ask all over 70-year-olds to self-isolate for up to four months in order to protect themselves from the virus.

“We will be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so, because we absolutely appreciate that it is a very big ask of the elderly and the vulnerable, and it’s for their own self-protection,” he said. “Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.”

Speaking to the BBC, Hancock asked British manufacturers to switch production to making ventilators in order to treat the increasing number of coronavirus patients. He said the U.K currently had 5,000 ventilators but needed more.

Hancock said companies that had this capacity should “turn their engineering minds and production lines to making them… We need to produce more.”

Asked if these ventilators would be useful without the specialist staff needed to operate them, he said: “We’ve got the number of doctors that we have, we want to bring people who are recently retired back into service and, for instance, release doctors from some other duties and get them back into the health service.”

Chairman of the British Medical Association Dr. Chaand Nagpul said the U.K.’s lack of ventilators was a result of government austerity and cuts to public sector, saying the situation the country’s national health service faced was “a result of a decade of under-funding.”

“Our starting position unfortunately has been far worse than many other of our European nations – we have about a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has, as an example, so it’s really critical, it’s really important that we now see transparently what plans the government has to expand that capacity,” he said.

“One of the most immediate priorities of course is we don’t have enough doctors. Before the outbreak we were 10,000 doctors short, so we’re very worried and the doctors I represent are very concerned that they don’t, for example, have adequate protection.”

Hancock also told the BBC that the government was planning to give police the power to arrest people infected with coronavirus who were not in self-isolation.

“We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health, yes, and that’s important,” he said.

“I doubt that actually we will need to use it much because people have been very responsible.”

The British Foreign Office also advised against “all but essential travel” to the U.S. The decision followed U.S. President Trump’s travel ban on the U.K.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 141 countries and territories.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 5,700 with more than 152,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a pandemic and Europe its epicentre.

[Photo: People wear medical masks as a precaution against coronavirus (COVID-19) in central London, United Kingdom on March 15, 2020.  Photographer: İlyas Tayfun Salcı/AA]

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