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‘Up to 80% of UK population could get coronavirus in worst-case scenario’

Testing times: Health secretary Matt Hancock speaks in the House of Commons on the coronavirus outbreak PICTURE: PA

FEARS are intensifying over the spread of coronavirus in Europe as France reported its second death and the number of people in Italy with the virus continues to climb.

Meanwhile, it has been suggested that up to 80 per cent of the UK population could become infected with coronavirus in a ‘worst-case scenario’.

Authorities in Italy have reported that the number of people infected in the country grew to 322, or up 45 per cent in 24 hours, and 11 people have now died.

Austria, Croatia and Switzerland also reported their first cases linked to the outbreak in Italy, while Spain and France recorded new ones, also involving people who had been to northern Italy.

France recorded its second death, a 60-year-old Frenchman who died in a Paris hospital.

The first positive test in South America has also been recorded in a 61-year-old Brazilian man who had recently been to northern Italy.

For the first time, the number of new cases officially reported outside China has exceeded new cases reported by Beijing, Reuters has reported.

Safety measures: Hospital staff walk past the Creil hospital where the ‘white plan’ has been launched following the death of first the French citizen in Paris after testing positive for Covid-19 PICTURE: EPA

It said figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed there were 427 new cases reported in 37 countries on Tuesday, compared with 411 reported by Beijing.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs today that 7,132 people in the UK have so far been tested.

Of these, 13 have tested positive, of whom eight have been discharged from hospital.

He said the NHS is looking to extend home testing while a new public information campaign will be launched.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock suggested that home testing will be rolled out more widely to complement existing hospital testing and the ‘isolation pods’, which have been sited at hospitals in England for people who turn up at A&E with symptoms.

He said: ‘We now have testing sites at all A&E facilities, as far as we know, across England.

Money laundering: A bank clerk disinfects notes in Suining city in southwest China’s Sichuan province PICTURE: AP

‘But we’re also planning to introduce home testing and some of this has started already so that people don’t have to go to the pods in front of A&E, which have been put there to ensure that people don’t actually go into A&E where they might infect others.

‘Home testing is the safest place to be tested because then you don’t have to go anywhere, and that will allow us to roll out testing to a much larger number of people as well.’

A number of schools in the UK have told staff and pupils to stay at home after returning from ski trips to northern Italy, where several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions remain on lockdown.

At least eight schools have closed despite national guidance urging them to stay open.

And up to 80 per cent of the UK population could become infected with coronavirus in a ‘worst-case scenario’, a new document suggests.

The paper, from the National Security Communications Team, which advises ministers, says the government is planning for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst case.

‘For the UK, this could involve up to 80 per cent of the population being infected; however, not all of these people will experience symptoms and the vast majority of cases will be mild disease,’ it says.

‘This is based on the currently available scientific evidence.’

Under this scenario, of those who do develop the symptoms, ‘2 per cent to 3 per cent will result in a fatality’, the document goes on.

This could potentially mean millions of Britons infected and hundreds of thousands of people dying. The population of the UK is around 66.4million.

‘The Government is taking all necessary precautions to protect the public, including engaging with key industry partners to discuss their preparedness planning,’ says the paper, which is titled Covid-19: Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario.

The document adds: ‘Covid-19 is a previously unknown virus, which means the global population has little to no immunity to infection.

‘There are currently no clinical counter-measures available to treat Covid-19 and a vaccine is unlikely to be available for many months.’

It says current treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms of infection ‘while the patient’s body fights against the virus’.

Current evidence suggests the elderly and those with underlying health problems are most at risk from coronavirus.