An intensive care specialist has described how one person with coronavirus could infect up to 59,000 others – as the virus is more than twice as infectious as flu.
Dr Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London, explained how the virus could be passed from one person to thousands as he called on Britons to heed advice on social distancing.
‘Normal flu, if I get that, I’m going to infect on average about 1.3 or 1.4 people – if there was such a division,’ he told Dr Xand van Tulleken on Channel 4’s Coronavirus: How to Isolate Yourself programme.
‘If those 1.3 or 1.4 people gave it to the next lot that’s the second time it gets passed on. By the time that’s happened 10 times, I’ve been responsible for about 14 cases of flu.’
Dr Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London, explained how the ‘very infectious’ coronavirus could be passed from one person to thousands
Dr Montgomery went on to illustrate how coronavirus is far more infectious than the common flu, with one person potentially infecting 59,000 others under the same circumstances.
The virus has gathered speed in Britain in recent weeks, with more than 422 reported dead amid 8,000 cases of COVID-19.
Some 87 patients died overnight on Monday in England, including 21 at the one NHS trust in London. Scotland also announced two fatalities, while Wales and Northern Ireland confirmed another death.
In contrast, fifty-four infected Britons died the day before. The UK’s death toll has risen almost six-fold in the space of a week, with just 71 fatalities recorded last Tuesday.
‘This coronavirus is very, very infectious, so every person passes it to three,’ Dr Montgomery said.
Dr Montgomery illustrated how coronavirus is far more infectious than the common flu, with one person potentially infecting 59,000 others
People walk through London on Tuesday despite Boris Johnson’s orders to stay inside amid the coronavirus outbreak
‘Now that doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but if each of those three passes it to three, and that happens at 10 layers, I have been responsible for infecting 59,000 people.’
He went on to urge Britons not to ignore advice on social distancing as the ‘best chance’ we can give those who do fall ill is keeping hospital beds free.
‘I’m not going to play it down,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be horrible for a large number of people.
‘But it will be a small number of people who get properly sick and a smaller percentage of those again that need to come to an intensive care unit and we can save the lives of a large number of those people too.
Police disperse a group in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester city centre today as officers enforce Mr Johnson’s new powers to stop groups of more than two people congregating
Visitors to an outdoor gym exercise on Clapham Common in South West London this afternoon
‘But please just remember that the best chance we can give for the people who do fall ill is if we have got enough beds and enough staff and enough kit to be able to be there for you.
‘And if you are irresponsible enough to think that you don’t mind if you get the flu, remember it’s not about you, it’s about everybody else.’
He added that most people will feel mild symptoms after becoming infected and be ‘just fine’ – but they may still spread the virus around if they do not self isolate.
‘A few will get sick at about day ten of their illness,’ he said. ‘So they will need to come to a hospital and when they’re in a hospital they will consume resources and time.
‘People will look after them quite rightly and they will be monitored to see if they become really sick.
A group of young men are spoken to by Kent Police officers before being dispersed from a children’s play area in Mote Park, Maidstone
Police officers walk through an unusually quiet Victoria Station in London as the UK entered its first day of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the Coronavirus
‘Those people will then come to an intensive care unit and that’s where, if you’re critically ill, your life gets saved or not.
‘This is the issue: we’ve got a limited resource, a limited number of ventilators, a limited number of doctors, a limited number of nurses – which is fine because we can’t run ourselves with a huge excess capacity all the time.
‘If we overwhelm that, we can’t provide that service of caring for these people properly.’
Dr Montgomery’s stark warning comes as police officers were forced to break up barbecues being held in across the UK as Britons flouted new draconian powers to disperse crowds of more than two to halt the spread of coronavirus.
A woman runs on an empty street outside the Houses of Parliament amid the three-week lockdown
In shocking footage, Shepherd’s Bush officers were forced to use a megaphone to disperse large crowds of people sunbathing on the green, clearly not abiding by the rules of the lockdown set by the Prime Minister.
From a police van, an officer said: ‘You can’t stay on the green, can you all go home. Can you all go home please this is not a holiday, it’s a lockdown, which means you don’t just come here and sunbathe. Please just leave.’
Boris Johnson last night announced a three-week nationwide lockdown, closing all shops selling non-essential goods, as well as playgrounds and churches.
He also banned gatherings of more than two people and said family reunions, weddings, baptisms and other social events must be cancelled to stop the NHS collapsing under the strain of the pandemic.