February 14, 2020
How deadly is coronavirus? How fast can it spread? What are the best precautions? Will we end up answering how China did it? And how prepared are we in Britain?
Brighton, home to the UK’s first group of coronavirus cases, is under pressure. With schools, doctors’ surgeries and individual residents taking precautions, there are many urgent questions that swirl.
How deadly is it? How fast can it spread? What are the best precautions? Will we end up answering how China did it? And how prepared are we in Britain? We have some answers tonight.
In an exclusive poll for tonight’s special program on responding to emerging cases in the UK, “Coronavirus: Is Britain Ready?” Channel 4 News conducted an exclusive survey of over 500 frontline healthcare professionals.
96% of respondents said they felt that the national health service is not ready to face a serious outbreak, with 93% saying that there is not enough protection for national health service personnel on the front lines.
When asked if they think the healthcare system can cope with what may be around the corner, 88% believe that there are no adequate facilities such as isolation areas to deal with a large number of suspected Coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, 81% believe that there has not been enough preparation for Coronavirus.
A healthcare professional, a pregnant family doctor, said she was “genuinely frightened” by the current situation.
Another health care professional told Channel 4 News: “patients are receiving unreliable, inconsistent and potentially dangerous advice from 111. High-risk patients are still told to see their GP.”
Another claims to have had “no briefing on the masks” and instead resorted to their hardware store.
As the international community tries desperately to understand more about this virus never seen before – and to find a vaccine – Matt Frei talks to some scientists at the forefront of the research – who tell him how Britain will deal with the widespread public health emergency.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health, of Imperial College London, worked for weeks to model the virus. He said: “I would much rather be accused of overreacting rather than reacting.
“This virus is what probably worries me most about everything I’ve worked on.”
He added: “Since we know a lot about how these viruses are spread, we have a lot of data from past epidemics. Given how transmissible this virus appears to be and given that at least all adults can become infected, we have far less data in children, so 60% is a reasonable figure. Within the first 12 months or so. What we don’t know at the moment is whether everyone is infected. What proportion could die and what are the groups at risk? Our best estimates at the moment are that perhaps one percent of the people who get infected could die. “
Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England, tells the program: “We are in the very early stages of managing new coronaviruses. We are making sure there are recommendations for hospitals across the country.
“The Chief Medical Officer, the medical director of NHS England and others, writing regularly with updates to the guidelines, there are extensive plans on both NHS systems, larger government systems [and] Public Health England to deal with any eventuality it may be, now that the eventuality in the worst case is not without challenges and these challenges can be significant for the NHS, and they will be prepared and will think about how to manage them.
“I don’t think we can say that there will be no difficulty if we enter that scenario.”
Coronavirus: is Britain ready? it airs tonight on Channel 4 at 19.30.