Airlines including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair are axing flights due to plummeting demand as confirmed global coronavirus cases topped 100,000, with 3,400 deaths on Friday (March 6) sending Easter holiday plans into chaos.
A scientist helping develop a vaccine for the virus has called it the worst disease outbreak since Spanish flu, which killed millions in 1918.
Dr Richard Hatchett, who leads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: “This is the most frightening disease I’ve ever encountered in my career, and that includes Ebola, it includes MERS and it includes SARS.
“The most concerning thing is the combination of infectiousness and the ability to cause severe disease or death.”
Cases are rocketing across Europe, leading to many rethinking their spring holiday plans, the report added.
“The death toll in Italy rose from 148 to 197 last night, with 4,600 confirmed cases.
“Foreign Office ministers are considering extending travel warnings across the entire country, from the current advice against the quarantined zone in the north of the country.
“Confirmed cases in Germany tripled in two days, rising from 180 on Tuesday to 555 by 4pm on Thursday.
“Belgium’s cases more than doubled to 109 yesterday while Greece detected 14 new cases, bringing the total in the country to 45.
“Meanwhile, a 43-year-old British businessman was confirmed with Covid-19 in Thailand.
“Two British Airways baggage handlers have tested positive, and were recovering in isolation at home.
“The Royal British Legion said it may have to scale back VE Day 75th anniversary events on May 8 to protect elderly veterans.”
It said: “The welfare and safety of our veterans is our priority. We will follow the relevant advice from Public Health England.”
The report added: “Travel insurance sales have surged – up 168% year-on-year for the Post Office and 150% at CoverForYou, with traffic to insurance pages at TravelSupermarket up 85% in a week.
“Samples from a patient in his 80s who died at Milton Keynes Hospital in Buckinghamshire were last night being investigated for coronavirus.
“Hospital staff who nursed him have gone into isolation and a detailed contact-tracing exercise was under way. Fellow patients on his ward were isolated and a deep clean carried out.
“If tests are positive, the man – who was understood to have had underlying health conditions – will be the second to die here from the virus after a woman in her 70s died on Thursday.
“A child at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool has tested positive, but no details of age or gender were given.
“A church has been closed after a parishioner was diagnosed with coronavirus after attending the Holy Communion service at St Mary’s in Churston Ferrers, Devon, on Sunday.
“Hopes of a vaccine to stem the outbreak were dashed yesterday.
“Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said one might be ready next year, but added: “I don’t think we will get the vaccine for this outbreak.”
“Scams linked to the outbreak have cost consumers over £800,000,” the report said.
“Many involved people trying to buy protective masks, with one victim paying £15,000 for masks that never arrived, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said.
“Public Health England urged people to “plan ahead” for possible self-isolation.
“However, panic-buying has led to the Government setting up a working group with supermarkets to thrash out a plan to tackle shortages.
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are working to makes sure that if people are self-isolating, they will be able to get the food and supplies that they need.”
“But surging demand for hand sanitiser has led to the gel being stolen from hospitals on a daily basis.
“Northampton General Hospital reported wall-mounted dispensers being ripped off and visitors using the hospital’s supply to top up their own bottles.
“Lib Dem MP Layla Moran has written to Matt Hancock and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick asking how health checks are going to be carried out for those sleeping on our streets.”