The World Health Organisation statistics professor from Wokingham borough has predicted the UK will have 100 confirmed coronavirus cases fairly soon and 1,000+ within three weeks.
As we went to press, 85 cases had been confirmed. The professor has warned large scale school and other closures may be essential to save lives.
In line with his prediction in an exclusive interview with Wokingham.Today in early February, Professor Ben Cowling told us this week that: “The UK is at the very start of an epidemic.” He added: “And there is a long way to go.”
Four weeks ago, with just two cases in the UK, he predicted the start of a UK epidemic by early March.
Prof Cowling, director of a WHO collaborating centre in Hong Kong, went to Sonning CofE Primary School. His parents still live in the village.
This week he urged: “One of the priorities for the government is to implement measures that will slow down spread of infection so that hospitals do not face a major surge in cases in April, or May.”
But, Prof Cowling added, it was difficult to predict precisely possible numbers of cases.
“It depended on measures to stop or slow spread. Case counts were affected by numbers tested.
“Other experts have estimated that perhaps 40% or more of the UK population could be infected within six months if effective measures are not implemented to stop or slow spread,” he added.
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine last week, Prof Cowling said: “A brief window still remains within which to prepare for what will shortly be recognised as a global pandemic.”
He warned that isolation of cases, contact tracing and quarantine will quickly become impossible because hospitals will run out of space to isolate mild cases.
Home quarantine was hard to enforce. The alternative was to reduce contact among the community as a whole. Places like schools, houses of worship and sports stadiums, may have to close as in the USA during the 1918-19 flu pandemic.
“…the interventions may be essential to save lives, particular if a surge in infections threatens to overwhelm health care services,” he wrote.
The Foreign Affairs article is headed: “Controlling Coronnavirus will mean keeping people apart. China has an app for that. The rest of the world needs a plan.”