Customers at a Costco in south London are now being disinfected at the front door as coronavirus fears continue to grip Britain after a woman in her 70s last night became the first patient to die in the UK.
Shoppers ‘lined up obediently’ at the Croydon store’s entrance yesterday before being stopped by a staff member to be sprayed with a ‘disinfectant-like liquid’, the person who filmed the incident told MailOnline. Costco today denied the claims, saying only trolley handles were sprayed – not customers.
As coronavirus fears take hold in the UK now that 116 people her have been diagnosed and the virus is known to be spreading inside the UK, anxious Britons have resorted to wearing gas masks and blankets on public transport in desperate attempts to protect themselves.
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.
Despite the panic surrounding the virus the government has urged people not to bulk buy products, with health secretary Matt Hancock vowing that supermarkets would not run out of food and Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming that it was ‘business as usual’ after the first confirmed death of a UK patient with the virus.
But customers don’t seem to be taking much notice of the reassurances and bosses at online supermarket Ocado told customers they would have to place orders early due to a ‘higher than usual demand’.
It comes as the Competition & Markets Authority yesterday warned that firms taking advantage of the panic by hiking prices of items such as hand sanitisers and disinfectants could be prosecuted or fined amid shortages of the products across the country.
It seemed there was a back log of customers outside the Costco in Croydon as they were given hand sanitiser on entrance
Coronavirus fears have gripped Britons. A man on the central line of the London Underground this morning wore a gas mask
A commuter on the London Underground wears a gas mask on Friday morning as the capital was gripped by coronavirus fears after the UK’s first death
An LBC radio producer photographed a passenger on the London Underground ‘protecting’ themselves from coronavirus by hiding underneath a quilt
The action from Costco comes as many cleaning products were sold out in stores up and down the country. Pictured above is a Tesco store is seen stripped of toilet paper amid warnings shoppers must avoid panic buying essentials
Many people have taken to wearing face masks on public transport. One many was pictured wearing his headphones over the mask (left) while another was pictured on the tube this morning wearing the full face covering (right)
Customers queue outside Boots in Salisbury, Wiltshire, this morning, amid reports that supermarkets and shops across the UK are running out of hand sanitiser
The incident at Costco in Croydon comes amid rising reports of bizarre events around the country as concerns about the coronavirus hit fever pitch now officials admit people are catching the virus within the UK.
A total of 116 people in the UK have now been confirmed to have the coronavirus in the UK – 105 in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.
At least 45 of them are still infected but recovering at home, while 18 have recovered already, one has died and the remainder are believed to be in hospitals.
Speaking to the MailOnline, the person who filmed the incident at Costco said it was a ‘peculiar situation’ and that there had been no clear signs explaining what was happening or why the queue were longer than usual.
‘There were no available trolleys and by time I reached the top of the line I noticed the security guard/sales assistant had a translucent canister and he was spraying everyone as they walked in,’ he said.
‘You would show your card and then receive a squirt of whatever was in there and then you would get a tissue’.
He added that there had been a waste paper bin to drop the tissues into and claimed he questioned Costco staff on if these measures had been put in place because of the coronavirus to which they said ‘yes’.
The company said it was ‘simply sanitising trolley handles as a precautionary measure’.
But the witness said it was definitely sprayed onto his hands, adding: ‘Nobody seemed to question what was happening and everyone was just lining up obediently.
‘The liquid was more fluid than hand sanitiser and it felt more water-based, it had a smell of disinfectant.’
He also claimed that customers were rationed to two tissue-based products each and that hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial products were also being rationed.
Customers were lined up outside the Croydon Costco (pictured above) and were given hand sanitiser
A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon on Thursday morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser
BEWARE DOOR HANDLES, AD CAMPAIGN WARNS
Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK.
The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere.
The drive is designed to change people’s attitude to hygiene, amid fears the killer infection could become a seasonal problem.
The ad campaign warns that the coronavirus virus can live on hard surfaces for hours
Health chiefs decided to use the door handle picture after tests showed 96 per cent of people remembered the poster because of the disgust factor.
In comparison, only 85 per cent could recall a poster that simply told people to wash their hands, The Times reports.
A Government source told the newspaper: ‘Just information works on a cognitive level. But disgust works on an emotional level.’
Customers in Marks & Spencer stores have now also been limited to the amount of hand sanitiser they are able to purchase.
The process is now similar to that of when a customer wants to buy a product containing alcohol.
If using a self service machine a notice flashes up on screen and a staff member has to come over to grant authorisation for the product to be sold.
Despite stores now panicking about customer spreading the virus in stores, the British Retail Consortium said there should be no risk to customers shopping and browsing in stores.
‘Current estimates suggest it can live up to 24-30 hours outside the body. Much less than the sea freight and air freight times (weeks) from China. In addition, the virus is temperature sensitive and would not tolerate the sub-zero low temperatures typically found in the cargo hold of an aeroplane.’
The organisation said that sales of hand sanitisers and other similar products had gone up and that businesses ‘make sensible precautions’ to stop the spread of the disease.
As the virus is transferred by water droplets transmission requires close proximity of around one to two metres.
But the concern is not people being in close proximity and is the fact that individuals could smear the virus from hands to face.
This could occur in stores if someone touches a product that has also been touched by a carrier of the virus – and then touches their face of mouth.
Chief medical officer for the Government, Professor Chris Whitty, yesterday said people can catch the illness by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their face.
And the coronavirus may stay contagious on hard metal or plastic surfaces like door handles or rails on buses or trains for as long as three days, he added.
Some scientists have even suggested the virus may be more likely to spread on the hands than it is through the air.
Speaking at a meeting with ministers in Parliament this morning, Professor Whitty said the virus would ‘largely gone by 48 hours and almost completely gone by 72 hours on a hard surface’.
He clarified that the virus spreads when somebody who already has it coughs or sneezes onto their hand, then touches something or someone.
Professor Whitty said the risk of touching a contaminated surface declines as time passes, but there could still be a danger for days after an infected patient left their mark
Officials have given detailed hand-washing instructions and say people should do it every time they leave the house or arrive home; before and after eating or preparing food; when they go to the toilet; after they cough or sneeze; and after they touch surfaces in public places
Anyone who touches something the patient has contaminated is at risk of catching the virus if they then touch their face, he said.
The virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, but not through the skin, Professor Whitty explained.
The Government’s new advertising drive is designed to change people’s attitudes to hygiene amid fears the killer infection could become widespread in Britain.
Health chiefs decided to use the door handle picture after tests showed 96 per cent of people remembered the poster because of the disgust factor.
Pedestrians wear face masks as they walk through Piccadilly Circus on Thursday- normally a bustling tourist hotspot – in central London
Ministers have launched an advertising blitz featuring a dirty door handle, amid frantic efforts to halt the rise of coronavirus in the UK. The huge public information campaign will urge the public to wash their hands whenever they arrive somewhere
Coronavirus patients are told to recover at HOME: People who have just mild symptoms will not be hospitalised
Coronavirus patients are no longer all being admitted to hospital, British health officials have confirmed.
Anyone confirmed to have the virus who is not seriously unwell or at risk of becoming more dangerously infected can recover at home.
At least 45 people out of the 116 confirmed in the UK have already been instructed to stay in their own houses and wait for their illness to blow over.
Until the new rule was drafted – it is not clear when it began – all confirmed patients had to be taken to a specialist hospital unit in one of five locations around the country, some hundreds of miles from their hometowns.
An extra 29 cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed in the UK today, bringing the total to 116 – 105 in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.
Officials said it was ‘perfectly reasonable’ for people to recover at home because COVID-19 is a ‘mild illness’.
Chief medical officer for the government, Professor Chris Whitty, said that most people with minor cases of the virus will no longer be hospitalised.
Instead they will be asked to stay at home, where they pose less of a risk to other people.
The government has now issued advise that states people should be washing their hands more often and for at least 20 seconds.
Retail experts yesterday claimed that supermarkets would be preparing for riots as part of emergency plans to feed the nation as panic buying Brits started to strip shelves faster than they could be refilled this week.
Former Tesco supply chain director Bruno Monteyne said a major outbreak of the virus would result in ‘panic buying, empty shelves and food riots’ but that at this stage retailers would revert to ‘feed the nation’ status to avoid anyone going hungry.
It came as Boris Johnson tried to reassure Britons he would ‘keep the country fed’ and urged people to refrain from stockpiling essentials as photos circulated of empty shelves in supermarkets.
Monteyne, of investment firm Alliance Bernstein, said the virus reaching pandemic status would lead to thousands of supermarket delivery drivers going off work, reducing the rate at which stores can be replenished.
Warehouses typically only hold one to two weeks of stock for non-refrigerated food products and only a few days for perishable goods and bulky items like toilet paper, so panic buying would rapidly lead to shortages.
At this point the industry’s crisis-management mode would kicks in, with supermarkets working together to ensure there is enough food to go round, Monteyne said in a report.
The continuing panic around the virus comes as the UK yesterday confirmed its first coronavirus death in ‘a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions’, as the number of cases doubled in two days to 116 and health chiefs revealed patients with mild symptoms will be asked to stay at home instead of being treated in hospital.
The patient, understood to be a 75-year-old woman, tested positive for the killer infection at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading before succumbing to the illness.
Elderly patients are known to be at higher risk of suffering deadly complications because of their weaker immune systems.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his sympathies to the patient’s family yesterday, saying: ‘Our sympathies are very much with the victim and their family.’ England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said he was ‘very sorry’ to report the news and offered his ‘sincere condolences’ to the family.
Health chiefs fear the patient, who had previously ‘been in and out of hospital’, caught the virus in the UK because they had not recently travelled abroad – eight of the 29 cases confirmed today were patients who got infected on British soil. Only 51 patients were known to have the infection two days ago.
MailOnline has contacted Costco and Marks and Spencer.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.
More than 3,300 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and over 98,000 have been infected. Here’s what we know so far:
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.
By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.
By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.
By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.
A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.
By February 25, around 80,000 people had been infected and some 2,700 had died. February 25 was the first day in the outbreak when fewer cases were diagnosed within China than in the rest of the world.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.
She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.
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