The global spread of coronavirus is ‘much, much worse’ than that of Ebola, according to one of the experts who helped discover the older disease.
Professor Peter Piot said Covid-19 has the potential to develop into a ‘really bad situation’.
He told Sky News that although people are ‘very scared’ of Ebola, it is ‘usually very contained’ due to the fact it ‘requires very close contact for transmission’. Coronavirus on the other hand is ‘very infectious because there’s so much virus in your throat’.
The director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: ‘So this is literally something you can catch by talking to somebody, which is not the case with other viruses.’
The Ebola virus, which he co-discovered while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Belgium, has a death rate of 50 percent on average, but has been known to hit as high as 90 percent in some outbreaks.
Experts currently estimate the death rate in Covid-19 to be around one percent, but it is early days and the true numbers are still unknown.
Echoing the World Health Organisations reclassifying of the virus, Prof Piot said it is now ‘truly a pandemic’.
In the UK, where there have so far been 596 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, Prof Piot said we could see a surge in numbers to ‘probably well over 10,000’ by Easter.
As the number of infections continue to increase, the ‘top priority’ will be protecting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who have proved to be the most at risk.
Prof Piot urged that ‘we should think carefully about who to visit’ and ‘about the contacts between grandparents and children’ as ‘we don’t know how risky that is’.
The expert said it wouldn’t stop him spending time with loved ones, but suggested taking extra precautions.
Prof Piot added: ‘There won’t be any hugging, handshaking. We have to keep some distance. But with children who jump on grandma’s lap, that’s going to be a bit complicated.’
On the question of ‘inevitable’ contact during close gatherings he continued: ‘I would say that for elderly people who have some immune deficiencies or some serious diabetes, cardiovascular disease, I would be very careful and I would just have other contact, you could organise that through WhatsApp and so on.’
What does self-isolation mean?
Self-isolation means staying indoors and avoiding all contact with other people for 14 days, according to the NHS.
It means no going to work, school, the shops or even to the park for some fresh air, in order to minimise the risk of passing on Covid-19.
Public transport and taxis are a no-no and you shouldn’t have visitors over, even if you just stay at home.
Anyone in self-isolation is advised to ask friends, family and delivery drivers to pick things up for you and drop them-off. You should put a sign outside telling people you are self-isolating and everything should be left on the floor outside your front door to avoid the risk of further infections.
Those who are self-isolating are still advised to stay away from their pets as much as possible and to wash their hands before and after touching them.
If you live in a house share and have to self-isolate, the advice is to stay in your room with the door closed and only emerge to use communal kitchens, bathrooms and living areas if absolutely necessary.
Who should self-isolate?
The government advises anyone returning from Category 1 areas (Hubei, Iran, Italy and Daegu or Cheongdo in South Korea), to go straight home and self-isolate, even if they don’t display any symptoms.
Travellers should use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next.