Reports suggest that coronavirus may have been spreading across the UK since late 2019, months before it was detected.
The World Health Organisation has said that it was struggling to obtain information regarding coronavirus from China in the early days, before it was declared a global pandemic.
The Guardian reports that genetic analyses of the new coronavirus suggested the virus emerged in humans in China in late November to early December 2019, with some data suggesting the first known case was observed on November 17th.
China’s official submission to the WHO states the first infection was December 8th.
The first confirmed date of coronavirus in the UK was January 31st. But as our understanding of the range of distinct symptoms of the virus has grown, many people wonder if they or their loved ones could have had it earlier.
Dr Stephen Baker at Cambridge University’s Infectious Diseases Institute told The Guardian: “People are on heightened awareness about any sort of respiratory infection and it is easy to retrofit stories to things.
“Let’s say it was kicking off fairly substantially in Wuhan and people weren’t being informed: could there have been people travelling to and from China at that point who may have been infected by coronavirus? That is completely possible. Is it then possible that they transmitted the virus to other people when they were in the UK? Yes, of course that’s possible.”
Last month it was reported that swabs from a man, thought to be suffering from pneumonia, tested positive for Covid-19 in Paris on December 27th. This would mean that COVID-19 was in Europe a month earlier than previously thought.
Last month Tim Spector, an epidemiologist professor reporting on the symptom-tracking app developed at King College London, said: “The reports I am getting are from people who were ill from early January onwards and strongly suggest they had Covid-19 but were not recognised as such.”
On March 13th, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies concluded that: “there are more cases in the UK than previously thought and we may therefore be further ahead of the epidemic curve”.
Dr Baker explained that it would take an influx of infected people to cause real growth in the epidemic in the UK. He attributes this potentially people coming back from holidays in February half term such as ski holidays in Italy.
He said: It’s really at the point when you get a number of introductions in one go that onward transmission is more likely to happen … as soon as you get a certain number of the population infected in one go then you make that expansion of an epidemic [more likely].”
Baker also says that not everyone who has coronavirus is equally infectious and earlier cases might have been people who did not come into contact with others. He said: “When you’re ill, you tend to stay at home, so people may have been self-isolating on the basis that they didn’t feel very well.”
A clinical lecturer in infectious diseases at King’s College London, Nathalie MacDermott, has said that the virus could have been spreading silently and gaining access to more vulnerable sections of the population.
The WHO has encouraged countries to investigate other suspicious cases to better understand the circulation of the virus.
Public Health England has also acknowledged that it ‘cannot exclude the possibility that Covid-19 was in the UK in December or early January’.
Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens
The violence spilled out into the street
A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.
Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.
The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.
Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.
Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.
Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.
This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.
Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.
And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.
Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June
Do you agree?
Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.
In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.
One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.
Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.
“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”
According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.
Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.
He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.
Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).
There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.
The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.
“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”
It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.
“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”
Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters
It follows weeks of allegations against the PM
According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.
The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.
The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him.
“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections.
“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”
The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.
However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.
Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.