Schools could be shut, whole families quarantined and transport reduced if coronavirus becomes a global pandemic, England’s top doctor has warned.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told reporters on Tuesday that there were a number of contingency plans if the virus spreads throughout the country.
Speaking at the Department of Health and Social Care in central London Prof Whitty said a number of options will be looked at depending on the scale of infection.
He added: “There’s no secret there’s a variety of things you need to look at, you look at things like school closures, you look at things like reducing transport.
“The expectation is not that we will do all these things, the expectation is we will be looking systematically, using the science, at all the building blocks and balancing the effects against costs to society.”
Prof Whitty said that whole families could be asked to self-isolate if one of them had symptoms of the virus.
He added: “We might want to look at things like should people stay at home with their families in that situation.
“We would already recommend staying at home yourself, a stage up from that, and I’m not saying we would recommend that, is saying if you are ill with this you would stay at home and your family would stay at home as well.
“It’s one of the things we would want to think about.”
But Prof Whitty said he was “completely confident” the NHS could manage current level of activity caused by the coronavirus.
He stressed that health officials are still concentrating on containing the virus and stopping it spreading.
Prof Whitty said that World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ warning the spread of the virus has the potential to become a pandemic was his view as well.
He added: “That remains the situation, that’s our view.
“Equally, this is still potentially containable.”
Prof Whitty said any vaccine against coronavirus will have to come from existing drugs that already have licences.
He added: “The key thing is to find drugs that are currently licensed that work against this virus.
“We will not be able to develop a new drug before it reaches its peak.”