London 'will get a 12-hour warning before lockdown'

London will get a 12-hour warning before lockdown: Police could guard supermarkets, helicopters scramble to airdrop rations and only ONE person allowed out at a time if crisis spirals in UK’s coronavirus epicentre

  • Boris Johnson hinted at new restrictions on London amid fears it is at the heart of UK coronavirus outbreak
  • Other European cities including Paris and Brussels have already imposed similar draconian measures  
  • Claims that emergency plans have been drawn up for police to guard shops and helicopters to drop rations 
  • Londoners could be urged to stay inside with only one individual able to go out for essential supplies 
  • Mr Johnson has announced that number of tests daily will be increased from around 5,000 to some 25,000 
  • It will take up to four weeks to reach the ‘surge level’ and currently tests will still only be in hospitals
  • The Government is urging companies to help ‘rapidly’ develop a swab test for use in the wider community 
  • Test is also being developed that could show who has been through the virus and developed immunity 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

London faces plunging deeper into lockdown within days – and potentially with just 12 hours’ notice – amid fears the ‘superspreader city’ is driving the UK’s coronavirus outbreak.

After the daily death rate doubled to 33 yesterday, residents in the capital are set for tighter restrictions on their movements – with signs the government will urge people to stay at home unless it is essential. 

Plans are believed to be in place for police to guard shops and helicopters to airdrop food, although sources insisted that is not happening at this stage in the unfolding crisis. 

Speculation has been raging about the fate of London after Boris Johnson vowed he would not hesitate to go ‘further and faster’ to control the spread of the deadly virus.

He said ‘ruthless’ enforcement of so-called social distancing measures – such as working from home and avoiding social gatherings in pubs, cinemas and restaurants – was needed. 

Some 953 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in London – more than a third of the UK total of 2,626.

Health minister Nadine Dorries has vented her fury at images of still-busy bars and cafes in the capital, tweeting: ‘This is not social distancing, it is irresponsible behaviour and the price to pay for such selfishness will be severe for us all.’  

Tube services in the capital are already being downgraded, with 40 stations shutting. The nine-million inhabitants of the capital could be implemented as early as this weekend in the capital. 

Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the public to travel only if they ‘really, really have to’. 

It comes as military chiefs are putting up to 20,000 troops on standby to be deployed to Britain’s streets, hospitals and other key sites to help tackle the pandemic. Reservists have also been told they must be read to join a ‘Covid support force’.

Some 150 soldiers are undergoing fast-track training on how to drive oxygen tankers around the country in order to supply hospitals.  

Some commuters were still struggling into work in London today despite speculation that the lockdown could be tightened

Mounted police on patrol in London’s Leicester Square today, as the coronavirus outbreak threatens to run out of control

At a press conference in Downing Street tonight, Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for the capital after the death toll across the country spiked to 104 – up by 33 in a single day

A commuter wears a mask whilst walking across London Bridge into the City of London during the morning rush hour today

Fake News: An image showing military vehicles parked on a motorway at an unknown location has been posted today. Some people have claimed this is on motorways near London or Glasgow, but the vehicles are parked on the wrong side of the road indicating this is not from the UK

In the centre of the capital streets are largely empty as people stay away amid the spread of coronavirus. Pictured is Parliament Square

The statue of former British PM Winston Churchill was spotted wearing a face mask in his old constituency of Woodford Green in London on Wednesday morning

London Tube shutdown begins today as up to 40 stations will close due to coronavirus while Waterloo and City line and night services stop tomorrow 

Transport for London said the below stations ‘could be closed’ from today – and urged passengers to check their website for live updates.

Bakerloo Line: Lambeth North, Regents Park, Warwick Avenue, Kilburn Park, Charing Cross

Central Line: Holland Park, Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Chancery Lane, Redbridge

Circle Line: Bayswater, Great Portland Street, Barbican

District Line: Bow Road, Gloucester Road, Mansion House, Stepney Green, Temple, St James’s Park

Jubilee Line: Bermondsey, Swiss Cottage, St John’s Wood, Southwark

Northern Line: Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent, Goodge Street, Borough, Tuffnell Park, Clapham South, Hampstead, Tooting Bec, South Wimbledon, 

Piccadilly Line: Arsenal, Bounds Green, Covent Garden, Caledonian Road, Hyde Park Corner, Manor House

Victoria Line: Blackhorse Road, Pimlico

The most vital personnel are likely to be put in quarantine in UK bases until they are needed and all those overseas will have their holiday time cancelled. 

At the same time, thousands of reservists will be put on a wartime-style footing to boost numbers. 

Mr Johnson last night said people who chose to ignore the official advice could put others at risk. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests some Londoners do not appear to be following Government advice to socially distance themselves, and have been attending pubs, clubs and restaurants and continuing to travel to work. 

As a result, London could follow the example of other cities around the world which have been hit by the virus and go into so-called lockdown. 

However, police are said to be concerned that the measures would be unenforceable and could even lead to public disorder. 

This comes as Tube stations on the London Underground network are facing closure today to battle the outbreak of Covid-19.

Up to 40 stations which do not interchange with other lines could be closed, while the Waterloo and City line and Night Tube services will not run from Friday.

Buses in the capital will be reduced and people are being urged ‘not to use public transport for anything other than essential journeys’.

This morning London stations Arsenal, Barbican, Borough, Bounds Green, Bow Road, Covent Garden, Goodge Street, Hampstead and Manor House have been closed so far. 

TfL said it would also be gradually reducing the frequency of services across the network from Monday, ‘to provide a service for critical workers to get to where they need to – ensuring that remaining services are not overcrowded’.

London Overground, TfL Rail, the DLR and London Trams will also be running fewer services from next week.

Asked about the prospect yesterday, the Prime Minister said: ‘The more closely, the more strictly, the more ruthlessly we can enforce upon ourselves, our families, the advice we are getting about avoiding unnecessary gatherings about staying at home when we have symptoms, then the better we will be able to protect the NHS, the fewer deaths we will have and the less suffering there will be in the UK population, and the faster we will get through this.

‘This is strong, strong advice and we absolutely do not rule out taking further and faster measures in due course.’ The Government’s chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the measures would work only if they were followed by ‘a very high proportion’ of the population.

Sir Patrick, who will advise the PM on whether a further lockdown is needed, added: ‘The moment we say, “it’s not for me, it’s for someone else”, the less effective it will be.

‘When we don’t adhere to this, we are putting the sickest patients at risk. 

‘It is crucial that this is not taken as soft advice but a really clear instruction to do this.’

Internet rumour mill goes into overdrive as Army are seen on UK streets – but MOD insists it is ‘normal training’ and all of Britain is NOT being put into coronavirus lockdown

The internet rumour mill has gone into overdrive today as Brits shared pictures on social media of the army on UK streets.

One image that went viral on Facebook shows what appears to be soldiers in fatigues walking in Clapham, south London, with people hurriedly speculating they were being moved into place as part of a rumoured imminent lockdown in the capital city.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the image shows cadets from the Motivational Preparation College for Training, which has a base in nearby Battersea.

Fake News: One image that went viral on Facebook shows what appears to be soldiers in fatigues walking near Clapham, in south London, with people hurriedly speculating they are being moved into place as part of a rumoured imminent lockdown in the capital city

The college provides a military-style education for 16-19 year old’s and can help prepare students for a career in the armed forces. The fatigue-clad figures from the image circulating online are cadets training, not front line soldiers.

Another picture that sent the internet-haywire today shows military vehicles parked on a motorway, with some claiming it was snapped in Glasgow and others saying it was taken on the outskirts on London.

Fake News: An image showing military vehicles parked on a motorway at an unknown location has been posted today. Some people have claimed this is on motorways near London or Glasgow, but the vehicles are parked on the wrong side of the road indicating this is not from the UK

The image has been circulating for days, and has been attributed to being from both France and Russia. However it could not be from the UK because the vehicles are on the wrong side of the road.

A video has also gone viral showing what appears to be two military vehicles being transported down a motorway.

Social media users concluded the vehicles must be heading for London, but it is not clear when the video was taken. Additionally the dashboard shows the time as 7.13pm and the temperature as 14 degrees, which is high for mid-March.

The Chief Medical Officer also refused to rule out total lockdowns of the UK, as is happening in France, Spain and Italy. 

Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘What we’ve said at the beginning is that as the epidemic progresses, we will do more things at the right time.

‘But each of the things we’re doing are very disruptive to people’s lives and we’re very keen to do them at the right time but not before the right time.’ 

He told BBC 5 Live: ‘There may well be, as this epidemic starts to take off, significant other things the Prime Minister may wish to do.’

There are fears that as the virus outbreak escalates, vital emergency service workers will need military back-up to deliver basic needs.

A total of 150 personnel will begin urgent training from Monday so they are able to drive oxygen tankers to the NHS if a gap emerges. 

Announcing the plans last night, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The unique flexibility and dedication of the services means that we are able to provide assistance across the whole of society in this time of need.’

Major General Charlie Stickland, Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, added: ‘Putting more personnel at a higher state of readiness and having our Reserves on standby gives us greater flexibility to support public services as and when they require our assistance.

‘The Covid Support Force, potentially drawing upon our highly skilled scientists or oxygen tanker drivers, will form part of a whole force effort to support the country.’ 

The Army will also backfill key areas, including replacing police officers, border guards, prison officers and medics under plans codenamed Operation Broadshare.

The military is preparing for all scenarios, as it would do in any emergency. 

In a most-likely scenario, thousands of military medics, including doctors, nurses and combat medics, will be deployed to help hospitals.

But the military could also be used to help expand hospital bed capacity.

This could see troops using hotels, barracks, or erecting Army field hospitals near key locations to help cope with the rising numbers of infected people.

One option that has not been ruled out is using a navy hospital ship which supported operations to curb the Ebola outbreak.

At any one time, there are some 10,000 troops on standby in the UK to help with a crisis. 

But the number of those at high readiness will be increased to between 15,000 and 20,000 so there are more personnel available to support public services.

Measures have been taken to enable the call out of reservists, should they be required to join the response effort to help deliver public services.

Defence scientists at Porton Down are also working to understand the virus and help tackle its spread.

The military is also helping with ongoing repatriation flights from countries overseas. On top of this, the Ministry of Defence is looking to supply the NHS with as many of its 35 ventilators as possible.

Mr Johnson’s remarks came after Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, claimed the UK Government was about to announce ‘more stringent measures’ for London. 

Asked how far the UK was from a ‘complete lockdown’, she said the capital might see tougher measures first because it was further ahead on the ‘curve’ of the outbreak.

Mrs Sturgeon is fully briefed on UK-wide coronavirus measures as she attends the Government’s emergency Cobra meetings.

A source at London’s City Hall said last night that No 10 had not informed them of any lockdown plans so far.

Another source said: ‘All options are on the table. No decision has been made yet. We will take whatever steps necessary but no time scale has been decided upon.

Elderly shoppers take advantage of the two hours’ special shopping arrangement, during the coronavirus outbreak, at Iceland in Gloucester City centre

‘There has been speculation about police and the Army shutting down the streets completely. It is physically impossible – London is too big and there aren’t enough officers. It is unenforceable.’

It is understood that the military will initially be deployed to hospitals and to protect the transport network, although travel may be limited to key workers.

Though it not clear what exactly the stricter measures would look like, a lockdown could entail travel restrictions for all but key workers, which will include NHS staff on the frontline. All businesses could be forced to close, with only pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to stay open, as has been seen in other European cities. 

WHAT TEST IS THE UK CURRENTLY USING TO SWAB PATIENTS FOR CORONAVIRUS? 

Public Health England has not revealed which tests it is using to swab thousands of patients for the killer coronavirus.

But in a blog on its website, it suggests it just uses one – which takes a sample from a suspected patient’s nose and throat.

It says PHE’s diagnostic test was rolled out to 12 laboratories across the UK, who all increased their working output to analyse samples for 12 hours every day of the week. But patients are left in limbo for between 24 and 72 hours waiting for their test results to come back.

But health officials revealed last week that NHS hospital laboratories would soon start testing people to ease the strain on PHE, allowing them to conduct tests on-site without having to send samples away.

The Government yesterday ordered thousands of testing kits from the French-based firm Novacyt, in a deal worth £3.7million. 

But it is understood they are for hospital use only – even though NHS staff across the UK have already warned that facilities are swamped.

The company was an early mover in developing a test and is now supplying more than 60 countries. MailOnline has asked PHE to clarify which tests it uses.  

Last week US health bosses granted the emergency use of two tests in a desperate attempt to keep track of America’s escalating crisis. 

One of the diagnostic tools was made by Massachusetts-based firm Thermo Fisher Scientific. It can give results in four hours. 

Two men wearing suits were pictured carrying a box from ThermoFisher outside Downing Street yesterday. 

It is understood they were going in to demonstrate the kit at a meeting.

The testing announcement came amid mounting alarm about the low level of screening, with anger that NHS workers are being forced to self-isolate because they are unsure whether they have the disease or not. 

Routine testing of suspected coronavirus sufferers was abandoned last week, when the government said it was no longer possible to ‘contain’ the spread. Instead those with symptoms are merely being urged to stay at home for a fortnight.  

One doctor who is currently prevented from working today accused ministers of failing to ‘learn the lessons’ of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. 

Meanwhile, there are claims that celebrities have been paying for kits to check themselves at home.

The developments came as the UK death toll soared by around a third to 104. The number of people positively diagnosed hit 2,626, up from 1,950 yesterday. A total of 56,221 people now have been tested.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that 219,00 cases have been detected globally, with more than 8,000 dead.    

Representatives from US firm ThermoFisher were seen entering Downing Street last night carrying a box with a testing kit. It is understood they were giving a demonstration of how the four-hour test, which has been approved in the US, works.

Roche, Boots, and Amazon were also at the meeting with Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock in No10, as well as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance. 

At PMQs in the Commons, Mr Johnson insisted that the UK was already carrying out more tests that other ‘comparable’ countries.   

‘This country is actually far ahead of many other comparable countries. We are increasing our tests from 5,000 to 10,000 a day,’ he said.

He added later: ‘We are moving up to 25,000 a day.’ 

However, Jeremy Corbyn demanded an increase on an ‘industrial scale’ – pointing to the advice from WHO, which has been highly critical of the move to tell people with symptoms to isolate at home, without being diagnosed.

The government has come under heavy fire over the speed with which the testing regime has been bolstered. 

The number of checks per day is not expected to hit 10,000 until next week. 

But ministers believe that a radical expansion could soon see the total number exceed that in China, which has carried out more than 220,000 altogether.

Another MP tests positive for coronavirus 

Another MP has reported testing positive for Covid-19 after waiting six days for his results. 

Lloyd Russell-Moyle made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon and said the coronavirus was ‘the greatest test our NHS has ever faced’. 

He called for Britain to follow World Health Organisation advice and ‘test, test, test’. 

The Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven MP said he first felt symptoms last Wednesday and immediately put himself in self-isolation and called 111. 

Mr Russell-Moyle said: ‘After a six-day wait for results, I have just been informed I have tested positive to Covid-19. 

‘I was tested on the last day the NHS was still conducting community testing. 

‘If we are to beat this, then we need to take the @WHO advice and ‘Test, Test, Test’.’ 

He called on the Government to make coronavirus testing for healthcare workers their ‘priority’. 

He said: ‘Our priority must be testing our healthcare workers, who are currently needing to self-isolate for 14 days when someone in their house shows a symptom, taking them away from their life-saving work. ‘This is the greatest test our NHS has ever faced, an NHS that was already under strain. 

‘I have every confidence that we have the skills and resources to beat this virus, but only if we take radical steps to reorganise and re-prioritise our system.’ 

He called on the public to follow the Government’s official advice and to undertake social distancing. In November 2018, Mr Russell-Moyle became the first sitting MP to announce he was HIV positive. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘Public safety is my top priority, and radically ramping up testing for coronavirus is a key part of our plan to protect lives. We are already among the best in the world for coronavirus testing and today we are launching a national effort to increase our testing capability even further.

‘Our aim is to protect life, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS – so it is right that we prioritise testing for those most at risk of severe illness. We will always do the right thing at the right time, based on the best scientific advice, and will do whatever it takes to protect life.’

An announcement on closing schools in England is expected ‘imminently’ – probably at a 5pm press conference being held by Mr Johnson. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today that all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday at the latest.

The Welsh authorities have said they are doing the same, amid claims up to 20 per cent of teachers are in self-isolation.

Mr Johnson has already been forced to follow the example of other nations by effectively barring large public gatherings this week, despite resisting for a number of days. 

The change of stance over ‘social distancing’ on Monday came after modelling by a team of government advisers at Imperial College London warned that what was previously thought to be the ‘worst case’ scenario of 250,000 days was actually the most likely outcome.

Ministers hope that the new approach can limit coronavirus deaths to around 20,000. The current toll stands at 71.  

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance admitted yesterday that the tests must be ‘ramped up’. 

‘That clearly is not going to be enough going forward,’ he told MPs.

‘We really do need to get our testing in the right place to ensure we can monitor this effectively…

‘There is a very big effort going on to try to ramp that up.’

It is not clear the extent to which the number of tests is an issue, or whether the issue is the capacity of Public Health England (PHE) to carry them out.  

Two men wearing suits were pictured carrying a box from ThermoFisher – which makes coronavirus tests that give results in four hours – outside Downing Street last night

The Government has been at pains to say that it is testing more people than the majority of other states with coronavirus. But it is still far below the number being tested by nations like South Korea. 

Last night men carrying a box from ThermoFisher – which makes coronavirus tests that give results in four hours – were pictured in Downing Street.   

Celebrities and big businesses have begun paying out for a £375-a-time home-testing kit being sold by a private clinic, according to the Telegraph.

PrivateHarleyStreetClinic.com says it can get a test to your home within 48 hours, boasting:  At present, the NHS is only offering testing for coronavirus to hospitalised patients. 

‘We have been inundated with requests to provide a private test. 

‘We can now confirm we are able to offer paid tests, via a postal courier service on a maximum 3 day turnaround service to private individuals and organisations.

‘Most importantly, this is the only test in the world that can identify the lethal Covid-19 virus and differentiate between 9 other non lethal viruses with the same symptoms.’ 

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘Our NHS staff are battling to protect us, government must protect them: From goggles, gowns, gloves, masks and thermometers we need adequate PPE for all staff across secondary & primary care. 

‘Testing must be scaled up urgently for staff.’ 

Mr Ashworth added: ‘This is a national effort and all of us must pull together. 

‘We have to urgently ramp up testing especially for our NHS staff. 

‘If this Harley Street clinic has testing capacity then government needs to get hold of it for NHS staff.’

At PMQs, Mr Corbyn said: ‘The World Health Organisation said test, test, test and we should be testing, I believe, on an industrial scale.’

Testing stopped virus in Italian town 

Italian authorities have managed to contain the killer coronavirus outbreak in a small town near Venice through a rigorous testing strategy.

Health bosses in Vò – 45miles (72km) east of the tourist hotspot – have had no new cases for 48 hours.

Officials conducted an experiment in the town, which is home to 3,300 people, to test and re-test all inhabitants.

The Financial Times reports the strategy meant everyone would be tested – even if they showed no symptoms.

Andrea Crisanti, an infectious disease specialist taking part in the experiment, told the newspaper the method allowed officials to get the clearest picture about the size of the outbreak.

The experiment began at the end of February, and the initial roll-out of tests showed around three per cent of patients were infected.

This dropped ten-fold when the second testing round was carried out 10 days later, after quarantining all of the infected and their contacts.

Professor Crisanti, who is on a sabbatical at the University of Padua, said: ‘In the UK, there are a whole lot of infections that are completely ignored.

‘We were able to contain the outbreak [in Vò] because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them. This is what makes the difference.

 

He said 10,000 tests per day is ‘nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector’ and demanded a ‘greater sense of urgency’.

Mr Johnson replied: ‘Well in point of fact, we are prioritising testing of NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they’re not transmitting the disease and this country is actually far ahead of many other comparable countries in testing huge numbers of people.’

Mr Johnson rejected the criticism, and stressed the importance of a separate test for whether people have previously been infected with coronavirus.

‘We are getting much closer to having a generally available test which will determine whether or not you have had the disease and that will truly be of huge benefit to this country in tackling the outbreak,’ he said.

Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan, an A&E doctor, demanded to know why ‘mass testing’ was taking so long.

‘We are in unprecedented times. I would like to know where was the forward-planning for PPE for our NHS and care staff? Where is the testing for medics? Why are we waiting so long for mass testing? And why are social distancing measures merely just suggestions?’ she said.

Mr Johnson thanked the Tooting MP for her work in the health service, adding: ‘We have stockpiles of PPE equipment and we’re proceeding in accordance with the best scientific advice.

‘It is the timeliness of those measures that is absolutely vital in combating the spread of the epidemic. That is how you save lives.’

Around 86 per cent of coronavirus patients go undetected because their symptoms are so mild, a study warned last night. 

Scientists at Columbia University in New York analysed the spread of the infection in China, before the outbreak spiralled out of control. 

The researchers found the thousands of undocumented infections drove the spread of the crisis, which saw most of China locked down. 

Italian authorities have managed to contain the killer coronavirus outbreak in a small town near Venice through a rigorous testing strategy.

Health bosses in Vò – 45miles (72km) east of the tourist hotspot – have had no new cases for 48 hours.

Officials conducted an experiment in the town, which is home to 3,300 people, to test and re-test all inhabitants.

The Financial Times reports the strategy meant everyone would be tested – even if they showed no symptoms.

WHO warns lack of tests means fighting disease ‘blindfolded’ 

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation criticised countries that have given up on routinely testing all suspected coronavirus patients.

The UN agency’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom, warned the pandemic won’t be stopped if officials don’t know who is infected.

In a startling warning to the UK – which only tests patients in hospital and through routine surveillance by GPs, he added: ‘You cannot fight a fire blindfolded.’  

Almost 175,000 cases of the coronavirus have been identified worldwide, with 6,500 deaths recorded on every continent except Antarctica. 

Andrea Crisanti, an infectious disease specialist taking part in the experiment, told the newspaper the method allowed officials to get the clearest picture about the size of the outbreak.

The experiment began at the end of February, and the initial roll-out of tests showed around three per cent of patients were infected.

This dropped ten-fold when the second testing round was carried out 10 days later, after quarantining all of the infected and their contacts.

Professor Crisanti, who is on a sabbatical at the University of Padua, said: ‘In the UK, there are a whole lot of infections that are completely ignored.

‘We were able to contain the outbreak [in Vò] because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them. This is what makes the difference.

It comes after Sir Patrick suggested around 70,000 Britons – or roughly one in every 1,000 out of the 68million population – could unknowingly be infected with the virus.

He claimed for every death in Britain – 71 have been announced so far – there is likely to be 1,000 positive cases. 

Addressing MPs yesterday he said the UK needed ‘a big increase in testing’ because 4,000 a day was ‘clearly not going to be enough’. 

‘We simply don’t have the mass testing available for the population now,’ he told the Health Select Committee.

‘There is a big effort going on to get that in place as quickly as possible.’  

Doctor says lessons not learnt from Ebola crisis 

A frontline NHS doctor who worked for the government in West Africa during the Ebola crisis has warned lessons learned there are being ‘completely ignored’.

The anonymous doctor is currently in self-isolation for seven to 14 days because they have displayed symptoms of the virus but cannot be tested – as current Government policy states only the most serious cases are being followed up.

They told the PA news agency they did not understand the lack of testing and described personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to healthcare workers as ‘inappropriate’.

They added that the stream of information provided by the Government is good, but can be contradictory and ‘confusing to the public’.

‘As a doctor I’m unwell quite often – hundreds and hundreds of us are being taken out of action until our symptoms pass,’ they said.

‘I’m unsure why the Government is not testing us. It goes against their own information and logic, which is what they were doing in West Africa which was test, test, test.’

In stinging criticism, a frontline NHS doctor who worked for the government in West Africa during the Ebola crisis has warned lessons learned there are being ‘completely ignored’.

The anonymous doctor is currently in self-isolation for seven to 14 days because they have displayed symptoms of the virus but cannot be tested – as current Government policy states only the most serious cases are being followed up.

They told the PA news agency they did not understand the lack of testing and described personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to healthcare workers as ‘inappropriate’.

They added that the stream of information provided by the Government is good, but can be contradictory and ‘confusing to the public’.

‘As a doctor I’m unwell quite often – hundreds and hundreds of us are being taken out of action until our symptoms pass,’ they said.

‘I’m unsure why the Government is not testing us. It goes against their own information and logic, which is what they were doing in West Africa which was test, test, test.

‘After the crisis in West Africa there was comprehensive after-action reports on what to do… they’re now deciding to go against all that advice and they’re acting incredibly slowly compared to other nations.

‘It seems like all the lessons learnt from that are being completely ignored higher up.’

WHAT ARE OTHER COUNTRIES DOING? 

South Korea

South Korea has the capacity to test around 20,000 people each day – more than any other country in the world. 

Officials gave permission to four companies to make kits, with the country desperate to stop the killer virus spreading. It also uses drive-through testing centres.

Figures show the country has now tested up to 300,000 residents, at a rate of 5,000 per 1million inhabitants, according to reports.

In contrast, the rate in Britain is around seven times lower – at just 700 per 1million, MailOnline can reveal. 

South Korea’s outbreak – which has seen almost 8,500 cases and fewer than 100 deaths – has curtailed in the past week.

Fewer than 100 patients are being diagnosed each day, which leading scientists say is because of the country’s rigorous testing programme.

Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist based at Korea University, told Science magazine: ‘Lab testing is essential to control an emerging infectious disease.’

China

The coronavirus crisis began in China at the end of December, and saw hundreds of millions of people locked down in a desperate attempt to contain the crisis.

But World Health Organization experts said it was Beijing’s decision to test all suspected cases and then isolate their contacts was more important than the country-wide quarantines.

The UN agency’s assistant director general Bruce Aylward told New Scientist testing ‘stopped transmission in China, not the big travel restrictions and lockdowns’.

More than 80,000 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in China and at least 3,000 patients died of the infection. 

Italy

Italy is at the centre of Europe’s ever-growing coronavirus outbreak, with more than 31,000 confirmed cases and at least 2,500 deaths. 

At the beginning of the spiralling crisis at the end of February, health officials tried to test every suspected case.  

Virologists praised the approach, saying the strategy of ‘over-testing’ was ‘right and sensible’. Around 130,000 people have already been tested in Italy.

Authorities have already managed to completely halt the outbreak in one small town near Venice because of the rigorous approach. 

The Financial Times reports that Vò – 45miles (72km) east of the tourist hotspot, has had no new cases for 48 hours. 

And the outbreak in Lombardy, the northern Italian region that has suffered the most from the deadly infection, is slowing down, officials say.

The US

At the other end of the scale, the US has repeatedly been criticised for not testing enough people – with around 50,000 tests carried out so far. 

Some states, such as Alabama and Delaware, have swabbed fewer than 100 people, according to an independent tracker.

President Donald Trump has declared a national state of emergency and announced additional measures to expand testing.

Now, all US states can make, validate and use their own tests rather than wait for the approval of the FDA – the US regulatory body.

Health and state officials have widely blamed the testing shortage for the steep rise in US cases.

They say it both delayed public knowledge of just how many cases there were and allowed the disease to continue to spread from unwitting carriers.

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