The Bow Group calls for an Emergency Public Health Plan Ahead of the Arrival of Wuhan Coronavirus

Health
Friday, January 31, 2020

The Bow Group calls for an emergency public health plan ahead of the arrival of Wuhan Coronavirus

 Key Facts

  • Pandemic models generally see a one month gestation between the first case and global crisis. Coronavirus is currently moving more quickly.
  • The number of infected people is currently doubling every few days.
  • Half of the current 8000 reported cases are now outside Wuhan province. The attempts of the Chinese government to contain the virus within the initial outbreak area have clearly failed.
  • The UK should expect the Corona Virus to reach our shores within days or weeks.
  • It is likely that hundreds and possibly thousands of UK citizens will die of Coronavirus within the next year.
  • It is likely to have a major and unavoidable impact on the UK and global economies.

We call on the government to undertake:

  •        Mass flu vaccination of high risk groups
  •        Mass pneumococcal vaccination of high risk patients and through bringing forward follow up appointments of those with chronic conditions.
  •        Public information in print and film of preventation measures similar to those outlined recently by the US Centre for Disease Control ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/guidance-prevent-spread.html)
  •        The banning of all non-medical relief flights between the UK and China

Quotes:

“History we shows there is typically one month from the index case of a viral epidemic to a national emergency. Valuable time to prepare for the inevitable is being wasted while officials console themselves with the initial negative test results.

The number of confirmed Coronavirus cases is rising exponentially. The virus is very infectious and case numbers are doubling every few days with John Hopkins University reporting more than half of over 8000 cases are now from outside the source city of Wuhan. Previous flu epidemics have generated hundreds of thousands of cases in recent years. The 2009 H1N1 (Swine flu) epidemic saw 500,000 cases in England alone with several hundred deaths.  The initial mortality rate from Wuhan Coronavirus is around 5-10% so even if extensive testing reveals many mild cases of the infection we can expect thousands of deaths over the course of the year”

We call on the government to repatriate our citizens and work with Dublin to repatriate Irish citizens from Wuhan and place them in quarantine. The Common Travel Area means we must co-ordinate with Dublin to bring our people home and to quarantine them to prevent them spreading the virus while they remain asymptomatic. 

It is not helpful to simply restate that the UK is at low risk of Wuhan coronavirus infection. In a world with the capital city a major aviation hub, overcrowding makes infection inevitable and we can expect spread to be rapid once established. A high number of negative tests is not remotely reassuring and only serves to demonstrate we now have time to act before our healthcare workers are occupied with acute care.

Given the rapid spread of the virus across Hubei and beyond we are now at the point where ALL flights from China need to be suspended, as British Airways has already done, or preparations made to hold thousands of travellers in quarantine. The short term economic cost of flight bans must be considered but the impact of a mass epidemic in London would do untold damage to the UK as can be seen given the standstill that Wuhan has ground to. The Wuhan virus has already more cases in China than were seen suring the 2003 SARS outbreak, most diagnosed within the last seven days." (Number of coronavirus infections in China surpasses SARS epidemic")
We can imagine that superinfection with Wuhan Coronavirus of patients with influenza, bacterial pneumonias, cystic fibrosis and chronic lung diseases will be extremely serious.  The NHS must ensure these patients are in their best possible condition. It also is crucial we avoid seeing legions of flu cases seeing their GP or visiting A&E where they would be at increased risk of catching other infections including coronavirus. 

Dr Jonathan Stanley (Medic), Senior Research Fellow, The Bow Group