Putting the coronavirus into perspective

Dr. Tim Sandle looks at the latest known data, facts and recommendations about the ‘novel’ coronavirus, including how this might impact on current policies – particularly in terms of infection prevention and the use of appropriate disinfectants.

The 2020 media has been dominated by the ‘deadly coronavirus outbreak’, with daily updates from the World Health Organization (WHO). China has accused the US of ‘causing panic’ after the US decision to declare a public health emergency and deny entry to foreign nationals who had visited China in the previous two weeks. At the time of writing (14 February 2020), there have been 46,550 confirmed cases in China and 1368 deaths, according to official figures from the WHO. From 13th February, for the first time, China has reported clinically diagnosed cases, as well as laboratoryconfirmed cases in Hubei Province only. However, for the sake of ‘consistency’ WHO is only reporting laboratory confirmed cases, in spite of 14,840 additional cases reported overnight from Hubei, which included 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases. Outside mainland China there are 447 confirmed cases of the virus 1 

China’s National Health Commission has classified novel coronavirus as a Grade A infectious disease which requires the strictest prevention and control measures, including mandatory quarantine of patients and medical observation for those who have had close contact with patients. Numerous cities in China are currently on lockdown with travel bans and public transport services suspended. On 31 January 2020, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty confirmed that “two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for the new coronavirus. The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.”

In light of the increasing number of cases in China the four UK Chief Medical Officers decided to ‘escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak,’ and advised increasing the UK risk level ‘from low to moderate’, as part of the Government’s ‘plan for all eventualities’. 

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