More than 1,500 people have now died as a result of coronavirus, with the first death in Europe related to the disease happening today. There have been nine confirmed UK cases of COVID-19 as it is known, but if it were to begin spreading rapidly, the NHS would struggle to cope, according to an experts.
A combination of little being known about the coronavirus and the fact that the NHS is already under considerable financial strain could spell bad news for the UK’s public health service.
Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told Wired: “Should we start to have many cases and self-sustaining spread in the community then not only would we not have enough high-consequence beds, but putting people into these beds would not be that valuable — the horse will have bolted by then.
“It would not lead to the collapse of the NHS but would certainly put considerable strain on it for a month or more.
“Elective and routine surgery and medical care may have to be limited during such an event, in part because of reduced bed availability but also because for a large community outbreak one would expect cases of illness in health care workers that may reduce the workforce.”
There is no cure for coronavirus at the moment.
Chinese scientists are currently testing two antiviral drugs.
Preliminary clinical trial results are weeks away but a vaccine could take 18 months to develop.
The UK has also confirmed nine cases of people with coronavirus.
READ MORE: Coronavirus: Expert issues outbreak warning for UK