The UK has been put under lockdown for a 21-day period in a bid to ‘delay’ the spread of coronavirus, as experts warn the worst of the virus will take hold within the next fortnight.
The country is expected to reach a peak number of cases by Easter, which falls on 12 April, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.
When will the number of cases peak?
The number of coronavirus cases are predicted to rise for “two to three weeks”, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, has said.
These numbers will then fall if people in the UK follow the guidelines the government has issued during the lockdown.
These include only leaving your home for specific and essential reasons, including infrequent shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise per day, medical needs, or to go to work, if this cannot be done from home.
Dr Harries said that if such measures are strictly observed, a decline in the number of cases should follow after the initial peak.
She said: “If people have cut down their social interactions, we would start to see a change in the graph.
“The peak will be pushed forward, but the height will be lower and we can manage NHS hospital care safely.”
Why will the number of cases peak over Easter?
The social distancing measures put in place by the government have been designed to “move the peak”, according to Dr Harries.
Health experts initially said the worst of the virus spread would occur between late May and late June, with an estimated 95 per cent of infections predicted in this timeframe.
However, Public Health England (PHE) later showed there would be a slow growth of new coronavirus cases every day, and these cases were expected to spike dramatically.
However, Dr Harries has now said this peak will happen sooner if the public follow the government’s advice to stay at home.
Taking seasonal elements into account, the UK is now predicted to reach a peak number of cases throughout March and April, with slightly warmer temperatures creating the perfect breeding ground for the virus.
Why is the UK ‘delaying’ the spread?
The UK is currently in the ‘delay’ phase of its coronavirus response, meaning it is too late to contain it, so efforts are instead being made to slow the spread.
This will allow health officials to cope when the number of cases peaks, relieving some pressure on medical staff.
Experts who are studying the spread of the virus in Italy believe that the UK is around two weeks behind, prompting the Prime Minister to impose a lockdown and strict social distancing guidelines in an effort to slow infection rates down.
In Germany, the coronavirus infection curve is now believed to have flattened, according to the country’s public health chief.
The upward trend in coronavirus cases appears to be levelling off in the country, largely thanks to the social distancing measures that were instigated to deal with the outbreak.
Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s health institute, told Sky News: “We are seeing signs that the exponential growth curve is flattening off slightly.
As of Tuesday 25 March, 9,539 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, and 463 people who tested positive have died.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath – but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential. Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.
All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations. Funerals can only be attended by immediate family.
Children of separated parents can go between both parents’ homes.
Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake “shielding” for 12 weeks.
For more information on government advice, please check their website. https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response
Should I avoid public places?
You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
When to call NHS 111
Only call NHS 111 if you can’t get help online and feel very unwell. This should be used if you feel extremely ill with coronavirus symptoms. If you have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus please use the online service.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS