UK coronavirus expert who was in Downing Street self isolates over virus fears

A UK coronavirus expert who was in Downing Street days ago is self-isolating after developing a dry cough and fever.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said he developed a cough yesterday even though he "felt fine" – but then felt a fever at 4am.

Mr Ferguson told BBC's Radio 4 he'd had 'recent contact' with Boris Johnson and the Chief Medical Officer.

He said he'd been at a Downing Street press conference the day before he felt the symptoms.

Mr Ferguson is now self-isolating in his central London flat.

This morning he tweeted: "Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine.

"Then developed high fever at 4am today.

"There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster."

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Prof Neil Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I got a slight cough while I was being interviewed by you yesterday and in an abundance of caution self isolated then, so I’m stuck in my flat on my own for seven days in central London.

"Then 4am I got a high fever which is somewhat better now but I still feel fairly grotty."

Asked if he’d had recent contact with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Ferguson said: "Indeed".

He added: "We think there’s infectiousness for about a day before symptoms and I was actually in a Downing Street press conference that day.

"But the onset of symptoms, we think, gives peak infectiousness and I hadn’t seen anyone for more than 12 hours at that time.

"So there is a slight risk I may have infected somebody but it probably is quite slight."

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are:

  • a dry, persistent cough
  • a fever

If you experience these symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate yourself for seven days.

It is not necessary to call NHS 111 unless your symptoms get more severe.

Some patients have reported fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath and aches and pains. Sneezing is not a symptom of the coronavirus.

He added: "I’ve been in so many meetings the last few weeks and the number of my colleagues at universities who’ve been advising government in those meetings have also developed symptoms.

"Central London is the hotspot in the UK at the moment so there are almost certainly thousands of cases in central London, so it’s not that surprising."

The UK only realised "in the last few days" that a strategy to slow down the spread of coronavirus could lead to 250,000 deaths.

The verdict emerged in a new academic study released hours after Boris Johnson drastically ramped up his approach to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Boris Johnson ordered people to avoid pubs, restaurants and clubs, unnecessary travel, and leaving the house where at all possible.

These measures followed a study by the Imperial College Covid-19 response team, which has been advising ministers.

The experts modelled two scenarios – merely "mitigating" the virus, and trying to "suppress" it completely like in China.

The study found suppression is "the only viable strategy at the current time", because the alternative would exceed the demand for hospital and intensive care beds eight times over – even in "the more optimistic scenario".

Under mitigation only, it added: "Even if all patients were able to be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US."

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College admitted UK chiefs changed tack when they realised the “worst case scenario” was actually “the most likely scenario”.

The expert – who led the study warning of 250,000 deaths – earlier told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s not so much changing our conclusions, we don’t recommend policy – it has been a refinement of estimates.

“Initially when we came up with these sorts of of estimates, they were viewed as what’s called the reasonable worst case scenario.

“But as information has been gathered in recent weeks, from particularly Italy and other countries, it’s become increasingly clear that actually this is not the reasonable worst case. this is the most likely scenario.”

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