UK Chief Scientific Adviser: ‘It’s A National Effort to Win Coronavirus Fight’

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Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser has told the public that the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus is a “national effort” in which everyone must play a part.

“We have now entered the delay phase of this pandemic and we want to delay the spread and reduce its effects,” wrote Sir Patrick Vallance, who is also head of the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) profession, in an article published on the Government’s website.

“This is response to the current spread of the disease in the UK that reflects the fact that we are few weeks behind some countries in terms of the outbreak of the disease [sic],” he added.

The former GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) research and development executive stressed that “we need… experts more than ever… we need their voices, and their advice, to be full, frank and honest” — but the question of why the Government did not take steps to end travel from China, Iran, Italy, and other heavily-infected countries long ago in order to slow the virus’s arrival and spread in the United Kingdom, went unanswered.

“We all have a crucial part to play” in “taking steps to squash the peak” of the epidemic, Sir Patrick told readers, stating that the coronavirus “is a mild disease in most people” but adding that it was nevertheless “paramount that we do everything possible to protect ourselves, to protect others, and protect the NHS.”

In terms of practical steps to, as he put it, “squash the peak”, his advice to people with coronavirus symptoms was to stay at home for seven days, while for the rest of the public the advice was much the same as always:

For people without symptoms we have 4 simple words of advice:

Keep. Washing. Your. Hands.

Wash them often, wash them even when wouldn’t you normally wash them, and wash them with soap for 20 seconds at a time.

I’ve opted for Prince’s, Raspberry Beret as my own personal handwash song [sic]. You can choose your own.

After Sir Patrick’s article was published on the gov.uk website, however, the Government’s advice has escalated, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Patrick, and Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty giving a press conference later that same day saying it was now time for “drastic action”.

The trio advised people with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate along with the rest of their household for 14 days — up from seven — and advised all members of the public to “stop non-essential contact with others and to stop unnecessary travel”.

“We need people to start working from home where they possibly can and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres, and other such social venues,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the state would “no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers in the way that we normally do” — but declining to ban them.

Despite the advice to “stop unnecessary travel” the borders do remain open, also — although in practice many of the countries most likely to be vectors for new cases have largely shut down outgoing flights.

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