The British scientist leading the fight against coronavirus admitted last night that predictions of 400,00 UK deaths are ‘not absurd’.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, revealed that ‘this is the one I’m scared of’ when asked about the killer coronavirus, which is causing panic all over the country.
However, he insisted he was not predicting 400,000 deaths, rather pointing out that the figure ‘is possible’ and adding that he’d ‘prefer to be accused of overreacting than under reacting’.
Research indicates that 60 per cent of Britons could be affected by the virus, formally known as COVID-19.
One per cent of patients infected could die from the illness, which in Britain’s case would mean hundreds of thousands of people.
It comes as it was revealed that the government is working on the assumption that half of the population will be infected with the virus, which could reach every part of Britain within months.
This could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths and force intensive care units to make ‘hard choices’ about prioritising who to treat.
Scientist Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said 60 per cent of Britons could ‘potentially’ be affected by the virus, formally known as COVID-19
A couple wear protective masks as they walk along the Thames embankment in London
Professor Ferguson was asked last night whether 400,000 could die and replied: ‘Potentially. Given we know a lot about how these viruses are spread we have lots of data from past epidemics.
‘Given how transmissible this virus appears to be and that fact that at least all adults can be infected, we have much less data in children, then 60 percent is a reasonable figure.
‘Within the first 12 months or so. What we don’t know at the moment is if everybody infected. What proportion might die and what are the risk groups? Our best estimates at the moment is that maybe 1 per cent of people who get infected might die.’
‘I would much prefer to be accused of overreacting than under reacting. This virus is the one which probably concerns me the most out of everything I’ve worked on.’
It comes as the global death toll from the illness hit 1,500 and the number infected passed 66,000.
Britain is in the grip of panic over the coronavirus, with daily delays at Heathrow airport as passengers are checked and several surgeries forced to close.
Staff in hazmat suits were said to have got on board the British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur this morning (thought to be pictured) and set up a privacy tent around an unwell family before evacuating everyone off the plane row by row
A passenger who flew with Emirates into Johannesburg, South Africa, said army officials came on board and tested each individual’s temperature
Yesterday, passengers endured hours of misery at Heathrow Airport when up to eight planes were put on lockdown over coronavirus fears after passengers on board complained of symptoms of the deadly virus.
MailOnline understands a British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur was held up on the tarmac for two hours when it landed at 6.45am after cabin crew grew concerned a Malaysian family ‘of around eight’ might have the contagious infection, now named SARS-CoV-2.
One passenger on the plane said that health workers in protective gowns and face masks came on board the BA34 flight and set up a screen around the family before evacuating everyone off the plane row by row.
Yesterday afternoon two MPs went into ‘self-isolation’ after going to a Westminster bus conference that was attended by one of the UK’s nine coronavirus patient and 250 other delegates.
Labour MPs Lilian Greenwood and Alex Sobel both announced their decisions on Twitter and said they had cancelled upcoming engagements as a precaution.
London’s Heathrow and Gatwick are the only two UK airports which still have direct flights from China landing – none are being operated by British airlines
The Westminster bus conference at the QEII Centre on February 6 was just a stone’s throw from Parliament.
The virus-carrier was one of 250 delegates at the UK Bus Summit, whose star speaker was Boris Johnson’s Buses Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton.
MailOnline understands the coronavirus patient who attended the conference was not the most recent case.
That case put London on red alert after the capital’s first confirmed patient took herself to A&E in an Uber on Sunday and walked into a public area of Lewisham Hospital – going against strict advice to stay at home and ring NHS 111.
Two healthcare workers who came into contact with the Chinese woman at the hospital have been told to self-isolate and the taxi driver’s account has been temporarily suspended.
The woman, who contracted coronavirus in China, ‘self-presented’ at Lewisham Hospital before being sent home to await the results of tests.
She was rushed to St Thomas’s on Wednesday after her test results returned positive. She is believed to live with family in London and thought to be in her late 20s or early 30s.
Official advice from PHE states that anyone who suspects they have coronavirus should stay at home, call NHS 111 and await transport to the nearest hospital assessment pod.
The Chinese patient was the first case in London and doctors are worried that the disease’s emergence in the capital will lead to it spreading quickly.
Amid fears of the virus in the capital, people have been avoiding Chinatown in Soho.
The normally-bustling tourist hotspot were eerily deserted last night, with restaurants left empty just weeks after Chinese new Year.