'We are learning as we go with coronavirus' - government adviser Sir Patrick Vallance

The government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says coronavirus has put the country in an unprecedented position.

No one within the UK is immune to the virus, which means everyone is at risk, forcing the government into a position of minimising its impact, after it was confirmed 116 people in the country have contracted it.

"It is uncharted in some ways but not in others; we have, of course, seen pandemic flu and we've got lots of plans for pandemic flu and there are lots of similarities to how this spreads to how pandemic flu spreads, so it's not totally uncharted.

"We've never seen this virus before; we are learning as we go along about how this virus behaves, we're collecting data on which groups are most vulnerable.

Two men in London wearing facemasks. Credit: PA

"We're beginning to understand what the duration of infectivity is and those sort of things - so those are new things - and none of us are immune to this virus, by definition, so that's also different.

"We have a totally naive population that has never been exposed to it before."

Sir Patrick thinks the chances of closing schools or forcing sporting events to take place behind closed doors are limited.

The main aim of government policy is to limit the risk to the most vulnerable people, who are the elderly, a fact underlined the confirmation that a woman in her 70s died in a Berkshire hospital due to the disease on Thursday.

"For the vast majority of people this is a mild illness and the risks of the illness increase quite dramatically at old age.

"As you go above the age of 60 and particularly 70 and 80 you start to see the death rate of the disease increase; above the age of 80 it might be as high as 8%."