Fifth coronavirus death as UK 'very close' to telling even those with mild symptoms to stay home

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Anyone with even mild symptoms of a cold or flu is likely to be asked to stay at home in self-isolation very soon, England's chief medical officer has said.

The UK is "very close" to insisting a seven-day self-isolation upon anyone with "even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever", Chris Whitty has said.

Professor Whitty said that the UK will reach that stage "probably within the next 10-14 days".

His comments came an hour before NHS England confirmed that a fifth patient in the UK has died after testing positive for coronavirus.

Daniel Elkeles, chief executive for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We can confirm that sadly, a patient in their seventies who was very unwell with a number of significant and long-term health conditions has passed away at St Helier Hospital."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK remained in the "contain" phase of the response to coronavirus but added that "we are making extensive preparations for a move to the delay phase".

When asked if there is a risk that the Government is acting too slowly, the prime minister said: "There's no question that this is going to become a significant, a much more significant outbreak than it currently is - that's obvious to everyone.

"But it is vital that we take the steps that we think are necessary at the right time and we follow the science."

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Professor Chris Whitty said: "What we are moving now to is a phase when we will be having to ask members of the general public to do different things than they would normally do."

But he stressed the importance of timing because "anything we do, we have got to be able to sustain" throughout the peak of the outbreak.

"There is a risk if we go too early people will understandably get fatigued and it will be difficult to sustain this over time," he said.

"So getting the timing right is absolutely critical to making this work."

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At the conclusion of the meeting it was confirmed by First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, that the UK remained in the containment phase of the outbreak.

It had been thought the government could decide to move out of the "contain" phase and into the "delay" phase of tackling the illness following the meeting.

During the "delay" phase, the aim is to slow the spread of the virus, reducing the impact and pushing it away from the winter season.

Arlene Foster confirmed the UK remained in the containment phase and said people should continue to take a "common sense" approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on the steps of the Cabinet Office Ms Foster said that decisions to postpone major public and sporting events would be "led by the scientific advisers".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs earlier on Monday there are now "four confirmed deaths" connected to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The news comes as the number of cases in the UK has risen to 319.

The fourth person to die after testing positive for coronavirus in England was being treated in Wolverhampton and had underlying health conditions.

In a statement, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "I am very sorry to report that a fourth patient in England who tested positive for Covid-19 has sadly died.

"I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their privacy is respected.

"The patient, who was being treated at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospital, was in their 70s and had underlying health conditions. It appears the virus was acquired in the UK and full contact tracing has begun."

Mr Hancock added he will do "all that he can" to ensure Parliament remains open during the outbreak.

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