Four more deaths have today been confirmed in the UK, taking the total number of fatalities on British soil to 108.
Northern Ireland has announced its first coronavirus victim and three more patients have died in Scotland.
Wales confirmed no more deaths have been recorded overnight, while England has yet to announce its daily update.
Health officials fear thousands more will die from the life-threatening infection, as the crisis in the UK continues to escalate at alarming speed.
Only a handful of coronavirus victims have already been identified, including the UK’s youngest – a 45-year-old with motor neurone disease.
Father-of-two Craig Ruston, of Kettering, Northamptonshire, died on March 16, his heartbroken wife confirmed in a deeply moving social media post.
Other named victims include a ‘typical jolly Irishman’ who died on St Patrick’s Day, a 88-year-old churchgoer and a 59-year-old police officer from Sheffield.
A temporary extension has been added to a morgue in Westminster – 37 people have died of the coronavirus in London already
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed three more deaths, taking the country’s toll to six.
She revealed the doubling in the number of deaths as she spoke to MSPs at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, the Scottish houses of parliament.
Ms Sturgeon sent her condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and added that 39 more patients had tested positive.
Figures show 266 cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded in Scotland – but Ms Sturgeon admitted the figure was ‘likely to be an underestimate’.
Northern Ireland today confirmed its first death – officials described the patient as ‘elderly’ and said they had an ‘underlying medical condition’.
The UK’s coronavirus outbreak has spiralled out of control and London is at the centre of an epidemic of thousands or tens of thousands of infected people. Around 900 people in the city have been officially diagnosed (Pictured, central London was bereft of traffic this morning)
Sainsbury’s in Northwich, Cheshire, opened early for pensioners today so they could do their shopping before the shelves get ransacked
Some of the holidaymakers who had been trapped on the Braemar cruise ship in Cuba are pictured walking home through Heathrow Airport this morning after flying home
The majority of Britain’s worst-hit areas are all boroughs of London but Hampshire is the local authority with the most cases
The country’s Health Minister Robin Swann expressed his ‘deep sadness’ at the death.
‘I would once again appeal to everyone to play their part in fighting the spread of this virus,’ he said.
Northern Ireland has yet to confirm any more cases today – yesterday it announced 68 patients had been struck down across the country.
Public Health Wales revealed the country has not recorded any deaths overnight – two patients have already succumbed to the life-threatening virus.
Dr Robin Howe, PHW’s incident director for COVID-19, also declared a spike in cases, with 170 patients now known to have caught the virus.
England has yet to announce any new cases and deaths, but hundreds more are expected.
London has emerged as the worst-hit area of the UK and has three times more cases of the coronavirus than any other region, according to official statistics.
More than 900 cases have already been confirmed in the capital, with the boroughs of Southwark, Westminster and Lambeth the worst affected.
In comparison, fewer than 300 people have been struck down in the second worst hit region, the South East.
London makes up more than a third of the UK’s infection toll, which has already seen 2,626 cases confirmed by health officials.
It comes as Boris Johnson today said the capital – home to almost 9million people – will not face being locked down this week, after fears had been growing that travel around and in or out of the city would be stopped.
Southwark, Westminster and Lambeth are the areas of London with the most coronavirus cases. London is, in turn, the area of Britain with the most combined cases
London has three times more cases of the killer coronavirus than any other region in the UK
Some commuters were still struggling into work in London today despite speculation that the lockdown could be tightened
Beds were seen being moved into Downing Street today as the capital faced the prospect of imminent lockdown
Mounted police on patrol in London’s Leicester Square today, as the coronavirus outbreak threatens to run out of control
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (centre) was in Downing Street today with NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens (right) and Department of Health permanent secretary Chris Wormald (left)
EBOLA DRUG SHOWS PROMISE AS CORONAVIRUS CURE BUT HIV MEDICINE FAILS TRIAL
Coronavirus cure hopes have had mixed results today after an infected Italian man in his 70s recovered with the help of an experimental Ebola drug, but a trial of a HIV drug has failed.
Doctors gave the unidentified 79-year-old remdesivir, which researchers around the world have tested in their desperate scramble to find a cure.
Officials in Liguria – the coastal region where the patient lives, which is south of Milan – announced he had recovered and could go home after 12 days in hospital.
The drug also showed success in a critically-ill woman in the US and four Americans who tested positive for the coronavirus after catching it on the Diamond Princess cruise ship..
The promising anti-viral drug was developed 10 years ago by California-based drug firm Gilead Sciences, with the intention of it destroying the Ebola virus.
It effectively treated monkeys infected with Ebola, according to the US National Institutes of Health, but had little success on humans.
However, it remains a functional antiviral drug which, in lab conditions, can destroy a variety of viruses. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China said it was ‘highly effective’ against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Doctors in the US have tried it on patients and it managed to speed up the recovery of the first person to be treated for the virus there.
Another drug doctors had high hopes for was a HIV therapy known as Kaletra, which is made of a combination of the medications lopinavir and ritonavir.
Chinese media reported that the drug was successfully used to cure patients with the coronavirus, but the reports were not scientifically proven.
A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, has dashed these hopes.
Dozens of doctors working in China collaborated on a paper which revealed the lopinavir/ritonavir combination ‘was not associated with a difference from standard care’.
They tried it on a group of 99 patients and compared them to 100 receiving normal hospital care.
The team said their recovery did not happen faster, they were not less likely to die, and the detectable levels of virus in their bodies were similar.
Virus expert at the University of Nottingham, Professor Jonathan Ball, said the results were ‘disappointing, but perhaps not unsurprising’.
Despite London being the epicentre of the UK’s escalating crisis, the worst affected single authority in England is Hampshire.
London has been described as the ‘superspreader city’ and the engine of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak after the total number of deaths doubled from 16 to 33 in 24 hours yesterday – it is now 37.
Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea are among the 10 hardest hit areas in the UK, each reporting more than 50 cases.
Outside of the capital, the rural counties of Hampshire (77 cases), Hertfordshire (50), and Surrey (39) are facing growing clusters. They are all within South East England, which has so far reported 18 COVID-19 deaths.
A large number of authorities have recorded fewer than 10 cases, including Wiltshire, Bradford, and the London suburbs of Kingston and Richmond.
Just four authorities – Middlesbrough, North East Lincolnshire, Rutland and Telford and Wrekin – have yet to record their first case.
Despite its status as the centre of the UK’s crisis, London will not be cut off from the rest of the country, but it could face a tougher lockdown within days.
Downing Street insisted there is ‘zero’ prospect’ of trains in and out of the capital being axed and said there are ‘no plans’ to shut down the London Underground, although services have been pared back.
The PM’s spokesman also insisted it is ‘not true’ that only one person from each household will be allowed to leave their homes.
However, the nine million inhabitants of the capital are set for tighter restrictions on their movements – with signs the government will urge people to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential.
Contingency plans are believed to be in place for police to guard shops and helicopters to airdrop food, although sources insisted that is not happening at this stage in the unfolding crisis.
Camp beds and food stocks were seen being moved into Downing Street today, in more evidence that Boris Johnson and his aides are bunkering down for the situation to escalate.
The PM fueled speculation about the fate of the capital last night by vowing he will not hesitate to go ‘further and faster’ to control the spread of the deadly virus.
He said ‘ruthless’ enforcement of so-called social distancing measures – such as working from home and avoiding social gatherings in pubs, cinemas and restaurants – was needed.
Health minister Nadine Dorries has vented her fury at images of still-busy bars and cafes in the capital, tweeting: ‘This is not social distancing, it is irresponsible behaviour and the price to pay for such selfishness will be severe for us all.’
The father-of-two, 45, with motor neurone disease, a 59-year-old police officer and an 88-year-old churchgoer: The victims claimed by coronavirus as Northern Ireland records its first death
Craig Ruston, 45
Craig Ruston, 45, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, is understood to be the UK’s youngest victim and had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2018
Sally Ruston (pictured) wrote on Mr Ruston’s blog: ‘My Amazing Craig passed away yesterday morning at 6.20am. We are truly heartbroken … Last Tuesday he was taken unwell and we have since spent the last 6 days in isolation’
Mr Ruston was a shoe designer who had previously worked for Dr Martens, Hunter Boots and Fred Perry before starting a blog when he was diagnosed with MND
WHERE HAVE THE DEATHS IN THE UK BEEN RECORDED?
LOCATION IN UK
NE and Yorks
East of England
Britain’s youngest coronavirus victim was named on March 17 as a 45-year-old father-of-two who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Craig Ruston, of Kettering, Northamptonshire, is the UK’s youngest victim. His wife confirmed his death in a deeply moving social media post.
Sally Ruston wrote on Mr Ruston’s blog: ‘My Amazing Craig passed away yesterday [March 16] morning at 6.20am.
‘We are truly heartbroken … Last Tuesday he was taken unwell and we have since spent the last 6 days in isolation.
‘Craig’s chest infection was confirmed as Covid-19. How dare that take Craig who was already facing this (MND), the most vile and evil of diseases.’
Mr Ruston – an avid fan of Sir David Attenborough – was a shoe designer who had previously worked for Dr Martens, Hunter Boots and Fred Perry.
He started a blog titled ‘Me and My MND’ after his motor neurone diagnosis in 2018, the Northamptonshire Telegraph reported.
Nick Matthews, 59
Heartbroken wife Mary Matthews (left) paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband Nick, 59, (right) who died from coronavirus in Bristol
Mr Matthews’ wife Mary penned a heart-breaking tribute on Facebook yesterday after her husband’s death
Mr Matthews – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary
A heartbroken wife paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband whose death was announced on March 15.
Police officer Nick Matthews, a 59-year-old father-of-two – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary.
The 59-year-old’s wife Mary wrote in a tribute on Facebook: ‘I lost my life partner and soul mate but most of all my best friend.
Mr and Mrs Matthews had recently returned from a holiday in Fuerteventura, flying out on February 22 and coming back on February 29.
In his last Facebook post, Mr Matthews described celebrating his birthday on the popular tourist hotspot.
Mr Matthews retired from his work as a police officer 10 years ago after suffering a heart attack.
Many paid tribute to him on Facebook, with one describing him as a ‘true Avon and Somerset Police legend’.
Darrell Blakeley, 88, from Middleton in Greater Manchester, collapsed on the floor of his home on March 3
Darrell Blakeley, 88
An 88-year-old man who died from the coronavirus after initially testing negative for the illness was named as Darrell Blakeley.
Mr Blakeley, from Middleton in Greater Manchester, collapsed on the floor of his home on March 3.
When the father-of-one was first tested for the virus at North Manchester General Hospital the result came back negative.
However, after he had received treatment for sepsis for several days, doctors tested him for Covid-19 again. The result came back positive and he died on March 13 in an isolation unit.
Before his collapse, he had spent time in a restaurant with people who had returned from a skiing holiday in Italy. But it is unclear whether he contracted the virus from them or from the hospital.
HOW HAVE THE NUMBER OF DEATHS INCREASED PER DAY IN THE UK?
Full death figures are not yet available for March 19
His daughter-in-law, Allie Crewe, said it was a ‘difficult and tragic death’ for the family.
Mr Blakeley attended St Michael’s Church in Middleton for 50 years.
Leonard Gibson, 78
Grandfather-of-four Leonard Gibson, 78, died in Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, South Yorkshire, on March 17
His devastated family called for others to take the condition seriously and said they regret not questioning whether he had the virus sooner.
Daughters, Lisa Broughton, 50, and Michelle Lenton, 51 took the brave decision to speak out due to the fears over the speed at which coronavirus is now spreading.
Mr Gibson, who lived in sheltered accommodation in Oughtibridge, near Sheffield, had been prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection after feeling unwell for a few days before he was eventually admitted to hospital.
The symptoms that the grandfather, who had the lung disease chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was exhibiting were initially thought to be connected to his condition.
However his daughter, NHS worker Lisa, from nearby Catcliffe, said she regrets not questioning the possibility that her father had Covid-19 and urged other families to voice their concerns ‘before it is too late’.
Mr Gibson, who had 12 siblings, was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and relocated to South Yorkshire to work when he was 26.
He spent a number of years at Orgreave cooking plant and brought up his family in Woodhouse, Sheffield.
He returned to Ireland when his marriage ended before moving back to Sheffield two years ago to be closer to his daughters.
Lisa said her father was a ‘kind, loving, generous, crazy and fun loving’ who would be remembered by his friends and all those at his sheltered housing complex as ‘a jolly Irish man who made everyone smile’.
Leonard Gibson (pictured), 78, from Oughtibridge, near Sheffield, died on Tuesday morning from coronavirus after being diagnosed with the illness last week
The pensioner’s daughter’s Lisa Broughton (left), 50, and Michelle Lenton (right), 51, have decided to speak out about their father’s death
The grandfather-of-four, who also had the lung disease chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), had been prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection after feeling unwell
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.