UK will be left with high burden of coronavirus cases – health expert

A public health expert believes the UK will be left with a “high burden of coronavirus cases” following its response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Dr Gabriel Scally, president of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, said there will be populations across the UK with a high exposure to the virus.

The UK Government has been urged to change its response to tackling the spread of coronavirus by health experts.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said only those seriously ill in hospital would be tested, advising anyone with symptoms to self-isolate at home for seven days.

The Republic of Ireland, like many other countries, is following international advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, Dr Scally, who led the CervicalCheck review in Ireland, said: “The things that both the Republic of Ireland and the UK have in common are the great deal of emphasis on social distancing, which is now being reinforced by strict rules that are being implemented very successfully in both jurisdictions.

“The second thing is, hospitals are in a high state of readiness and preparedness and that is a common feature, but there is a great deal of concern in the UK about the availability of protective equipment.

Coronavirus graphic
Coronavirus graphic

“The case numbers are expected to climb substantially, particularly in London, which is a hotspot.

“A big difference is that the UK is making no effort to control the spread of the virus in the community by testing for cases and by contact tracing, and so the United States, the UK, and Sweden are the three real outliers on this.

“Those three countries are taking a different route.

“I think the end game is going to be really very, very different.

“There are going to be a high burden of cases, particularly in the US, and I think in the UK as a result of what they’ve done or rather what they’ve not done.

“When we get past this – what is likely to be a very large surge – we’re going to end up with populations in the UK, with a high exposure to the virus.

The ExCeL centre
The ExCeL centre

“So a lot of people will have had it compared to the Republic of Ireland and other European countries, and it will then be difficult to lift some of the restrictions, particularly around travel and so on because the two countries, the two groups of countries, will be in completely different places.

“Personally, I think there’s no doubt in my mind that the Republic of Ireland is taking exactly the right course, based on international experience, and the very best advice.

“That will buy the country time, it’ll buy time for vaccines to develop.”

Dr Scally said that, “even more importantly”, this would “buy time for some of the drug trials to take place, so we can treat people more effectively”.

He made the comments as the coronavirus death toll in Ireland more than doubled after 10 further victims lost their lives to the virus.

A total of 19 people infected with Covid-19 have now died in the country.

Coronavirus graphic
Coronavirus graphic

On Thursday, TDs passed emergency coronavirus legislation in the Dail (Irish parliament).

There were 255 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland announced on Thursday evening, bringing the total number of cases to 1,819.

Of the 10 latest victims, three were female and seven were male. Nine were from the east of the country and one in the south.

The median age of the 19 patients who have died is 79 years old.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland should prepare for more deaths.

“We are only at the beginning of the curve,” he said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland cannot stop coronavirus, but the nation can work together to “slow it in its tracks”.

Mr Varadkar made the comment during the lengthy Dail debate on a sweeping package of legislation to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

It included measures that aim to prevent evictions and implement a rent freeze throughout the health crisis.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill, which addresses resources within six departments, including housing and health, passed in the Dail close to 10.30pm on Thursday. It will be debated in the Seanad later today.

The legislation before the Oireachtas aims to protect tenants and includes a 3.7 billion euro aid package that will see the Government contribute to wage packets.

The emergency measures are part of a major effort by Government to mitigate the social effects of Covid-19 and the economic consequences of the virus.