A woman wears a surgical mask while walking through Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport

Two British Airways baggage handlers at London’s Heathrow Airport have tested positive for the killer coronavirus as the number of patients diagnosed in the UK today dramatically jumped to 163.

Mail Online reports: “It came as a man in his 80s suffering with underlying health conditions was feared to have become Britain’s second coronavirus death. A woman in her 70s, who also had long-term health troubles, died yesterday.

“The number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK has now tripled in the space of three days, with just 51 cases confirmed on Tuesday. Forty-seven cases were announced today – the UK’s largest daily toll.

“Fears may now be raised that the BA baggage handlers could have passed the virus onto passengers’ luggage, as the virus is known to survive on plastic surfaces for up to three days.

“The fact that the handlers work at Heathrow – the busiest airport in Europe and one of the busiest in the world – raises the prospect that fliers from around the world have picked up the bug on some of the thousands of journeys which pass through the airport every day.

“Anxious Britons have resorted to wearing gas masks and blankets on public transport in desperate attempts to protect themselves as the coronavirus continues its rampant spread across the UK,” the report added.

“Meanwhile, supermarkets up and down the country have again been left bare amid rushes to stockpile household goods such as hand soap, nappies and dried foods like pasta and rice.

Passengers wear surgical masks as they board a British Airways flight

“In hope of quashing fears of millions, the government has urged Britons not to bulk buy products and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed that supermarkets would not run out of food.

“As panic continues to engulf the UK, it was revealed a Costco in south London was ‘disinfecting’ customers at the front door and Public Health England has urged the public to prepare to work from home.

“Furious doctors have warned the lack of spare beds in the NHS ‘will end in death’ and an ex-government worker claimed a coronavirus crisis in the UK ‘would be quite useful’ in killing off NHS bed blockers.

“And Prime Minister Boris Johnson today pledged an extra £46million to rush through a coronavirus vaccine, after Number 10’s top scientist admitted a jab won’t be ready in time to tackle the UK’s impending crisis.

“Mr Johnson even said it looks like the UK will face a ‘substantial period of disruption’ from the new coronavirus outbreak and the government plans to put aid for affected businesses in the national budget.

“A hospital patient in his 80s with underlying health conditions is feared to have become Britain’s second coronavirus death.

“The unnamed man is thought to have succumbed to the illness at Milton Keynes University Hospital last night.

“He had tested positive for the killer virus once already but the NHS must carry out further tests to confirm the case and rule out a false positive, MailOnline understands.

“Fellow patients and hospital staff on his ward have been isolated this morning and a deep clean has been carried out.

Fears may now be raised that the BA baggage handlers could pass on the virus

“Health officials are now tracking down anyone who had been in contact with the patient and will test them for the highly contagious illness.

“The man has tested positive once for coronavirus, but a patient must have three positive results for it to be considered accurate.”

BA did not reveal where the baggage handler worked, but the airline said in a statement: “The welfare of our passengers and colleagues is our top priority. Pictured are passengers at Terminal 5 wearing masks today.”

Meanwhile, furious doctors have warned that a lack of beds and equipment in the NHS during the coronavirus “will end in death”.

“In a New York Times article that was scathing of the NHS, British clinicians sounded the alarm about there not being enough ventilators or intensive care beds to cope with the crisis,” the report said.

“Elderly and frail patients will be denied lifesaving care because people with better chances of surviving will be prioritised, they warned.”

Dr George Priestley, an intensive care doctor in Yorkshire, said: “If we haven’t got ventilatory support to offer them, it’s going to end in death. I don’t want to be alarmist. I just want someone to pay attention.

“If we get those kinds of numbers, nobody knows how we’d possibly cope,” he added.

“We’d have to do a very robust triage where only those with a high chance of getting better would get near a ventilator.”

Other doctors have warned that years of austerity and cuts to the Health Service mean it could crumble in the event of a full-blown outbreak, the report added.

Pointing to the fact Britain now has the second-fewest hospital beds per capita in Europe, London cardiologist Dr Dominic Pimenta told the NY Times: “The NHS has never been in a worse state going into something like this.

“The dominoes have been stacked for 10 years. It wouldn’t have taken much to tip them over.”

The last time Britain faced a crisis on the scale of coronavirus was during the 2009 swine flu epidemic.