‘Do not avoid Norwich,’ says deputy health chief as 16 cases of coronavirus are confimed in East of England

The deputy medical officer has written a letter telling people not to avoid Norwich. Picture; Dan Gr

The deputy medical officer has written a letter telling people not to avoid Norwich. Picture; Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

In the wake of potential 'social distancing' one of the country's leading health chiefs has said people should not avoid shopping, attending football or travelling in Norwich.

The Department of Health on Saturday confirmed more than 200 cases in the UK with 21,460 people tested, of which 21,254 have been confirmed negative.

In the East of England, five positive cases were announced yesterday taking the total to 16.

There have been no confirmed Norfolk cases.

Read more: Five new coronavirus cases confirmed in east of EnglandJonathan Van-Tam,deputy chief medical officer, has written a message to the country as it continues to reduce the spread of the virus.

He said: 'When new viruses emerge in humans, we must treat them with the utmost respect and learn as much as we can about them.

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'Since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in China's Hubei province in early December 2019, leading UK scientists and clinicians have been working with international partners to closely monitor this outbreak.

'The new virus itself comes from a family known as coronavirus and previous strains have caused a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to SARS.

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'We must always follow the science. A vaccine will take time to develop safely. We are still learning about how COVID-19 affects individuals, and as our understanding of this virus develops, so too does the way in which we can manage cases.

The virus causes sore throat, fever, cough and muscle aches, rather like flu and lasts 7-10 days. A small minority of sufferers can develop breathing difficulties and pneumonia. The illness is more dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

Read more: Norwich scientist working on coronavirus vaccine'Researchers, public health experts, scientists, and the NHS are working very hard on this outbreak. I receive regular advice from the best experts in the country, and already, we have sequenced the genome. Our testing capability is excellent, and we have a growing understanding of the virus. This week, the government published a coronavirus action plan.

'We have always said it is likely that we will see more cases, and we are working hard to handle this increase through our four phased approach - contain, delay, mitigate, and research.

'This approach has been designed by world leading experts and has resulted in a detailed but accessible plan which sets out the options open to government in each phase of an outbreak.

'This lists the options government could consider in a worst case scenario; these should not be read as a list of the steps the government will definitely take.

'While much has been written about whether 'social distancing' will be necessary, my advice on this currently remains unchanged.

'We are not telling people to avoid the Royal Arcade, for Norwich City to play behind closed doors - nor should people cancel their travel plans from Norwich station.

'Quite rightly, the people of Norwich will want to know what they should be doing to keep themselves and their families safe.

'Our advice couldn't be simpler to follow: washing your hands more often is something all of us can do to significantly reduce the risk of the disease spreading. Simple steps taken by each individual will significantly reduce the threat not just across Norwich, but the entire UK.

Read more: Health boss reassurance on Norfolk coronavirus containment plan'This advice is at the heart of a new public awareness campaign which the Health Secretary has launched this week. Washing your hands more often - when you come in from home or work, after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze, and before you eat or handle food can make a huge difference. This should be for 20 seconds, using soap and water or hand sanitiser. You should also cough or sneeze into tissues before binning them, so your hands are kept clean, then wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

You'll be seeing plenty more of this kind of advice across all media in the coming weeks, including print, radio, online and on digital billboards. It will change as the epidemic progresses and that is normal, not a sign that we are getting it wrong.

'I also want to pay tribute to our NHS, Public Health England and Local Authority Public Health teams up and down the country which are working tirelessly to support everyone in need of advice, testing or treatment. The UK is a world leader in preparing for and managing disease outbreaks and our approach will always be led by medical experts.

But we have to be realistic - if the virus increases, we expect the UK to be impacted and pressure will be placed on the NHS. That's why we are calling on every one of you to play your part and follow the campaign's advice to reduce the spread of the virus.

Read more: 'We are watching the news. It is very serious' - City ace Tettey on coronavirus threat'Misinformation is our greatest enemy as we work to contain the virus - the action plan and public health campaign is intended to counter misinformation online and cement our official advice. There is reliable advice on what to do to limit your disease risk, and what to do if you think you have the disease on the Department of Health and Public Health England's websites. This is updated regularly and I want to encourage everyone to follow the advice and keep themselves and those around them disease-free.

'It is important that everyone follows clinical advice by calling 111. Do not rush to A&E if you develop symptoms.'

Read more: New travel guidance as people returning from Italy asked to self-isolate

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