Coronavirus: Peak number of UK cases 'could happen within next two weeks'

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

The UK may experience its peak number of coronavirus cases within the next fortnight, England's deputy chief medical officer has admitted.

Dr Jenny Harries defended the Government's decision to delay closing schools and the introduction of other tactics, adding experts are assessing new cases on an hourly basis to ensure a "balanced response".

It comes as the number of cases in the UK rose to 382 on Tuesday and a sixth death was confirmed.

And the British Medical Association warned that routine health checks by GPs may need to be halted to “focus on the sickest patients”.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

But new measures - including those aimed at protecting the elderly and vulnerable - are expected shortly as cases rise more rapidly across the UK.

Wales announced the number of cases rose by nine to 15 on Tuesday.

The most recent patient death took place on Monday night at Watford General Hospital, part of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The patient, who is believed to have contracted the virus in the UK, was in their eighties and had underlying health conditions.

Earlier, Dr Harries said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK are "pretty well" but that they may "feel a bit rough for a few days".

She added: "We can expect a peak in cases, it has a relatively slow take off at the start, that's where we are at the moment, it will start to rise quite sharply."

England's chief medical officer said the UK is 'very close' to insisting a seven-day self-isolation upon anyone with 'even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever'. Credit: PA

Asked when the rapid increase of infections might end, she said: "Within 10 to 14 days we will be likely to advise people with symptoms to self-isolate and we are expecting that start of the peak to come within that period."

Staying at home in self-isolation would be "extremely effective in trying to move our epidemic curve forward" towards warmer months, she added.

Dr Harries said cancelling big outdoor events like football matches would not necessarily be a decision supported by science.

"The virus will not survive very long outside," she said. "Many outdoor events, particularly, are relatively safe."

A coronavirus warning board at the entrance to Edinburgh Waverley train station. Credit: PA

Speaking on Sky News, Dr Harries said "many thousands of people" would contract coronavirus as the disease continued to spread in the UK.

"Large numbers of the population will become infected because it's a naive population - nobody has got antibodies to this virus currently."

Meanwhile Italy extended travel restrictions across the whole country on Tuesday, with soldiers and police enforcing the bans.

Overall, Italy has recorded 10,149 cases of Covid-19, with 631 deaths, and the figures are expected to rise.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK amended its advice to warn against all but essential travel to Italy.

Public Health England (PHE) said anyone flying back to the UK from Italy - and those returning from the US cruise ship - would be told to self-isolate at home if they have no symptoms.

Anyone who is unable to do so will be offered accommodation but people will not officially be put into quarantine, and will only receive medical attention if they are ill.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "Our advice could not be clearer - anyone returning from Italy should self-isolate as a precaution, even if they have no symptoms.

"We all have a part to play in combating this virus and we urge members of the public to look out for each other, pull together and make the right decisions based on the latest advice."