Millions of Brits may be infected with the deadly coronavirus as soon as Easter as the spread of the outbreak accelerates.
The COVID-19 virus, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms, has so far infected 164 in the UK and claimed the lives of two elderly Brits.
A man in his early 80s became the second person to die in the UK in Milton Keynes on Friday after testing positive for coronavirus.
Now experts are warning the worst is still yet to come and it won't get better for at least six months.
Microbiologist Peter Piot told The Times: "I’m often asked whether the threat is being overhyped. The answer, to me, is no.
"This is the real thing – I think we will go to the peak of the epidemic somewhere around Easter."
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He added: "If it goes down in April or May it could come back again in November.”
His comments come as Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, warned Britain was at the start of an outbreak which could infect around 80% of the population – around 50 million.
Brits heading the World Health Organisation's advice to "regularly and thoroughly clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water" have begun to panic buy soap and other toiletries as fears grow over the scale of the epidemic.
The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) say the country is well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious disease, such as COVID-19.
The NHS has put in place measures to protect the safety of all patients and staff, including establishing coronavirus pods where people can be tested.
All areas have also been asked to establish an operational COVID-19 incident coordination centre to manage the response.
The virus, which was first recorded in the Mainland Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has rapidly spread across the globe, infecting over 102,000 people, 3,491 of whom have died.
Public Health England say typical symptoms of coronavirus include "fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties."
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More severe symptoms are seen in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
The number of cases in mainland China, where the virus originated are said to be slowing down, but the else where the worst is still to come.
World Health Organization (WHO) called the spread of the virus "deeply concerning" as a new wave of countries reported their first cases of the COVID-19 virus in the last few days.
The Netherlands reported its first virus death on Friday, while Malta, Serbia, Slovakia, Peru, Togo, Colombia and Cameroon announced their first cases of the condition as it continues its spread across the world.
China reported 99 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, its first daily increase of less than 100 since January 20. The government reported 28 deaths in the 24 hours through to midnight on Friday.
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Overall, China now has 22,177 patients in treatment, while 55,404 have been released.
South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, has reported 448 new cases to bring its total to 7,041.
In Iran, newly-elected politician Fatemeh Rahabar, 55, died from the virus as the number of infections there rose beyond 4,700, with 125 deaths.
Governments are now increasingly imposing travel controls, telling people to work from home if possible and sanitising public spaces.
Despite its epidemic-level global spread, the figure of those infected still dwarfs global infection rates for other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as Sars, Mers and Ebola.
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