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More people likely to have coronavirus in Norfolk than official figures, says health boss

PUBLISHED: 12:36 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:10 16 March 2020

One person has tested positive for coronavirus at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. There are three more cases at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, but Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, said that the true number of people carrying the virus in the county is likely to be higher. Picture: NNUH

One person has tested positive for coronavirus at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. There are three more cases at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, but Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, said that the true number of people carrying the virus in the county is likely to be higher. Picture: NNUH

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The number of people in Norfolk who have the coronavirus is likely to be higher than official government statistics, according to the director of public health in the county.

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella WilkinsonLouise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

There are currently four people in Norfolk who have tested positive for COVID-19 – three of them are at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, and the other is being treated in isolation at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Dr Louise Smith reassured people on Saturday that the county is well prepared to deal with the coronavirus, but on Monday said that she is “pretty sure that [the virus] will be more widespread than the official figures”.

When questioned on the likelihood that more people than the known number are carrying the virus in the county on BBC Radio Norfolk, she said: “It’s likely that we’ve got more. We’ve seen national announcements on this as well. We know that we have about 1,000 cases diagnosed nationally, but we think probably 15,000 or 16,000 people in the UK [have the virus].

“If you translate that to Norfolk then yes, we are likely to have more cases in the community, but that matters most for those who become most unwell.

“If you’re at home and you have symptoms of a cough or a cold, you might have coronavirus – you might not – it probably doesn’t make a difference to how we look after you or whether we do test or not.

“We are pretty sure that it will be more widespread than the official figures.”

There have been a total of 1,372 positive tests for Covid-19 in the UK as of 9am on Sunday, up 232 from 1,140 at the same time on Saturday, according to the Department of Health.

Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said on Sunday that people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months, in order to protect them from the virus.

Dr Smith said on Monday that this age is “not an absolute cut-off”, and acknowledged that “there will be people under the age of 70 who have long-term health problems who are at risk as well”.

She said: “The plans that are coming out to try to look after people who are over the age of 70, some of what we are seeing government talk about is cocooning them, wrapping around them as communities and families, to help look after and protect people.

“It’s not about trying to single them out or separate or quarantine them.”

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