First death of coronavirus patient in UK as outbreak spreads

The first death of a coronavirus patient in the UK has been confirmed as the outbreak spread to more than 115 people.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said one patient with underlying health conditions has died after testing positive for coronavirus.

A statement from the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said: "Sadly, we can confirm that an older patient with underlying health conditions has died.

"The patient has previously been in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons, but on this occasion was admitted and last night tested positive for coronavirus.

"The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

"We will not be commenting further and ask that everybody respects the family's privacy."

It came as the number of coronavirus cases in the UK rose to 115 as the outbreak continues to spiral – with fears it could become a widespread pandemic.

Department of Health and Social Care officials confirmed eight of the known victims contracted the virus within the UK.

As of 9am on Thursday, 18,083 people have been tested.

The 115 positive cases includes a further 25 people in England as well as previously reported cases in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Professor Chris Whitty said 17 people were diagnosed who had recently travelled from countries or clusters already under investigation.

Thursday's update from the Department of Health came after England's chief medical officer warned critical care beds in the NHS could be put under intense pressure during an epidemic.

Prof Whitty told MPs the UK has now mainly moved into the "delay phase" of tackling the virus.

Half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period, he added.

Meanwhile, HSBC's office in Canary Wharf was evacuated after a case was confirmed among the banking firm's staff.

And budget airline Flybe collapsed last night, with some of the blame being placed on declining passenger numbers due to coronavirus.

Businesses have been promised extra support in the Budget to help cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said there is a "range of options" which could be included in next week's statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce conference in London, Mr Hancock acknowledged: "This is going to be a difficult time for us all."

His comments came after airline Flybe collapsed, blamed in part on a drop in demand caused by the virus.

Mr Hancock said: "We have a range of options to support business, to support supply chains and the wider economy should the situation require.

"I know that the Business Department and the Treasury are thinking very hard about how to do this in the Budget next week."

He added: "I know the hit that many businesses are already taking. I understand the sense of trepidation that something outside your control is such a looming risk on the horizon.

"I will do everything I reasonably can, not just to protect business, but to help business through.

"This is going to be a difficult time for us all. What I can offer is transparency and support and a rational, science-led approach."

Earlier this week, the government rolled out its "battle plan" – setting out the threat from coronavirus and warning it could leave up to one fifth of Britain's work force signed off sick.

Mr Hancock said business leaders have a role to play in combating the spread of the disease by supporting workers who need time off.

The health secretary however played down the prospect of mass school closures or the cancellation of large events in response to the crisis.

"Shutting down schools and universities would "not have a clinical benefit at this stage, but it would impose huge social and economic costs", he said.

He added: "The science on large events is that now there is no material clinical benefit, epidemiological benefit, to cancelling events, so long as people undertake the public health measures that I'm sure you all have heard of – wash your hands and, if you have a cough or sneeze, catch it."

Meanwhile, calls to NHS non-emergency number last week were up by 120,000 year-on-year as staff dealt with the strain of coronavirus.

The number of calls made to NHS 111 in the week ending March 1 was 442,675 – a rise of more than 120,000 compared with the same week last year and around 80,000 more than the previous week, according to performance statistics released by NHS England.

Call handlers answered 340,702 of those calls in the same period, which is around 22,000 more than the previous week and over 51,000 more than the same week last year.

An NHS spokesman said its staff had been working "round the clock" to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

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  • Coronavirus

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