UK scientists urge "more restrictive measures" as confirmed COVID-19 cases reach 1,372

World Monday 16/March/2020 14:17 PM
By: Times News Service
UK scientists urge "more restrictive measures" as confirmed COVID-19 cases reach 1,372

London: British scientists have urged the government to take "more restrictive measures" to tackle the novel coronavirus as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Britain reached 1,372 as of Sunday morning, an increase of 232 over the last 24 hours.

Fourteen more people have died in Britain after testing positive for COVID-19, bringing total deaths to 35, according to the British Department of Health and Social Care.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that every Briton over the age of 70 will be told "within the coming weeks" to stay at home for an extended period to protect them from the virus, adding that wartime-like measures will ask car makers to produce medical equipment and turn hotels into hospitals.

"Next week we will publish our emergency bill, to give the government the temporary powers we will need to help everyone get through this," he said.

In an open letter, over 400 scientists called on the government to further strengthen its social distancing measures.

"We consider the social distancing measures taken as of today as insufficient, and we believe that additional and more restrictive measures should be taken immediately, as it is already happening in other countries across the world," read the open letter.

On the frequently debated issue of "herd immunity", Hancock made it clear in an Op-Ed published on the Sunday Telegraph that it "is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy."

"Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate," said Hancock.

For Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology, "the ultimate aim of herd immunity is to stop disease spread and protect the most vulnerable in society."

"However, this strategy only works to reduce serious disease if, when building that immunity, vulnerable individuals are protected from becoming ill, for example through social distancing. If not, the consequences could be severe," said the president in his open letter to the government.

"We feel more needs to be done to ensure social distancing to limit the number of COVID-19 cases in the short term, especially for vulnerable members of our communities. This will enable us to buy time until we understand the virus better and can begin to develop therapeutics," said the president.

Also on Sunday, major supermarkets in Britain urged shoppers not to do panic buying after some shops began rationing the sales of certain products.

In a joint letter, British retailers reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping, so that others are not left without much-needed items.

The retailers said they are working with government and suppliers to make more deliveries to stores so that shelves are well-stocked.

On the diplomatic front, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Sunday updated its travel advice for the United States.

"We are advising against all but essential travel to the USA following the U.S. government announcement imposing restrictions on travel from the UK (and Ireland) effective from midnight on Monday 16 March EST or 0400GMT on Tuesday 17 March," said a spokesperson from the departement.