Coronavirus cases could peak over Easter and then fall if social distancing works, says health official 

Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said the number of infections could fall within two to three weeks

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Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries Credit: WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Coronavirus cases could peak over Easter and then begin to fall if the public follows social distancing measures, Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, has said.

Dr Harries made the statement about the timeline of the outbreak during a live Q&A on Mumsnet, a web forum for parents.

The social distancing measures put in place by the government are designed to “move the peak”, Dr Harries said, after one user asked her when the peak was expected to hit. 

She said: “What we hope is that in about two to three weeks, if people have continued to do as we have asked, and cut down their social interactions, we would start to see a change in the slope of the graph. 

“That means the peak will be pushed forward, but the height of it will be lower and we can manage all those who need hospital and health care safely through our NHS.”

Another parent, whose daughter is a doctor, asked Dr Harries what the Government was doing to ensure there is enough PPE equipment for NHS staff.

“Please, please is it possible to offer health staff more protective equipment? I'm so worried for my child,” the parent said.

Dr Harries replied that her own daughter is a junior doctor working on the NHS front line, and she has discussed the availability of PPE with her.

“There is kit available to go around the country currently. I do know there were a few distribution problems at the start, because we have never had to deal with this sort of demand in our health service before,” she said.

“But we have drafted in the Army to help distribute and I know that all hospitals have had new stocks going into them this week, including through the night to make sure they reach the frontline.”

She added there has been some “confusion” over what PPE kit is recommended in the UK versus World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.

“In fact the masks that we recommend currently in the UK are a higher specification than those WHO states and we have some different practices here about gowns and aprons, because the NHS has a very strict approach to infection control on wards, including keeping arms bare to stop disease transmission,” Dr Harries said.