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 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.
‘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.