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‘I wouldn’t bet against it’ - UEA expert on coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 15:21 24 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:56 27 February 2020

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. Photo: UEA

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. Photo: UEA

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A global coronavirus pandemic is not inevitable but is looking more likely as the virus continues to spread, a leading expert at the University of East Anglia has said.

Passengers in coaches leave MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire after being repatriated to the UK from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus in Yokohama, Japan and head to Arrowe Park Hospital on Merseyside   Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA WirePassengers in coaches leave MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire after being repatriated to the UK from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus in Yokohama, Japan and head to Arrowe Park Hospital on Merseyside Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the UEA, said the current situation in countries such as South Korea - where more than 600 people have been infected - suggested the world was heading for a pandemic.

He said: "It's not inevitable, but I wouldn't bet against it."

Prof Hunter said the current public health strategy in the UK of trying to contain the virus was the right one, as the number of cases here is still low.

"In the UK, the containment policy is still the right course of action but for how long, I don't know," he said.

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"It's probably doable up to a few hundred cases."

Prof Hunter said it was unclear how many more cases the UK could see.

So much was still unknown about the virus, including whether it is spread easily by people with no apparent symptoms, he added.

"We still don't know how worried to be about asymptomatic people," he said.

"There is still uncertainty about how asymptomatic people are, and how they contribute to the spread of infection."

The Department of Health said that as of Monday afternoon, 6,536 people have been tested in the UK for coronavirus, of which 6,527 have been negative and nine positive.

These figures do not include the four positive cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are now in the UK.

The UK remains "prepared for all eventualities", Downing Street has insisted, as fears over a global coronavirus pandemic continue to grow.

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Experts have raised concern that coronavirus will reach pandemic status following a rapid spread of infection in countries including Italy, South Korea and Iran.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is worried about the lack of an obvious link between China and newer cases in these countries, and some scientists argue the virus can be passed on by those with no symptoms.

In Italy, around 50,000 people are affected by a lockdown in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, as the country reports more than 160 cases - the largest number in Europe.


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