Feb 27, 2020 14:02 UTC
  • Coronavirus could kill half a million Britons and infect 80 percent of UK population, government documents indicate

A leaked government document has suggested up to 500,000 people could die from coronavirus if the disease is able to infect up to 80 per cent of the country.

While the Department of Health and Social Care said it did not expect the scenario to happen, the briefing to ministers, leaked to The Sun, said “the reasonable worst case” was for four fifths of the country to succumb to the virus.

The document by the National Security Communications Team warned: “The current planning assumption is that 2-3 per cent of symptomatic cases will result in a ­fatality.”

This could mean as many as 500,000 Britons could die.

A spokesperson for the DHSC said: “We have been clear from the outset that we expect coronavirus to have some impact on the UK, which is why we are planning for every eventuality – including the reasonable worst case scenario. Crucially this does not mean we expect it to happen.

“Public safety is our top priority and while there are currently only 13 confirmed cases in England, we have a team of public health experts and scientists working round the clock to make sure the NHS and UK more widely is fully prepared.”

It came as countries outside China were warned they are "simply not ready" for coronavirus, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said.

Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO's China envoy, warned on Tuesday: "Time is everything in this disease. Days make a difference with a disease like this."

The world is "simply not ready," he added. "It can get ready very fast, but the big shift has to be in the mindset."

Fears are growing of a pandemic across Europe as the number of infections in Italy has grown to 322- by 45 overnight with eleven people have died.

In the UK, schools have closed their doors and warned pupils to self-isolate following their return from trips abroad, and England’s top doctor warned British families may have to be quarantined and transport services cut back in the event of a global pandemic.