Scientist Who Discovered Ebola: Britain Faces ‘Major’ Coronavirus Outbreak

Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The United Kingdom is facing a “major outbreak” of the deadly coronavirus, warns the scientist who co-discovered the Ebola virus in Africa.

As the death toll for the coronavirus officially surpasses that of the SARS outbreak in 2003, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Peter Piot, said that he is “increasingly alarmed” by the rapidly spreading virus, saying that it is a “greater threat” than Ebola.

“It’s a greater threat because of the mode of transmission. The potential for spread is much, much higher. If the number of people who get infected is huge, then that will also kill a number of people”, Piot told The Times.

“In today’s world, no epidemic remains just a local affair. What happens thousands and thousands of miles from here in China has the potential of causing a major outbreak here”, warned the professor.

Mr Piot said that he is concerned about the capability of Britain’s socialised medical system, the National Health Service (NHS), to cope with an outbreak of the virus.

“You know how already overburdened the NHS is and if you’ve got a sudden major rise in cases of pneumonia or milder respiratory infections… The NHS can hardly cope with the normal situation,” he explained.

Professor Piot said that he believes the virus may not reach its apex until March and that the development of a vaccine before then is “unlikely”.

The professor said that a major concern for this virus is the number of people who remain symptomless despite carrying the coronavirus, saying that this new virus is more akin to swine flu and H1N1 in its ability to be transmitted than SARS.

Over 37,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus, with most cases happening in China, however seven British citizens have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus.

According to numbers from the Chinese Communist Party, 811 people have died from the virus.

On Sunday the British government chartered its final flight from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. The flight evacuated 105 British citizens and 95 Europeans, who will now be placed under quarantine at a conference centre in Milton Keynes, England.

Two Britons were prevented from boarding the flight after they failed temperature checks in China, the British ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward told the BBC.

“We are in touch with them and will try and support them to get them onto another country’s flights as soon as possible,” said Woodward.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.