Coronavirus: Deputy chief medical officer says UK will see 'many thousands of people' contract virus

The UK will see "many thousands of people" contract coronavirus, the deputy chief medical officer has told Sky News.

Six people have died in the UK after contracting the virus, with 373 confirmed cases.

This is significantly less than countries such as China, South Korea and Italy - but UK authorities are preparing for a large increase over the coming weeks.

Speaking to Sky's Kay Burley@Breakfast, Dr Jenny Harries said: "We will have significant numbers in a way which I think the country is not used to. So, large numbers of the population will become infected [with coronavirus] but because it's a naive population, nobody has got antibodies to this virus currently.

"Having said that, 99% of those will almost certainly get better and most people will have a really quite mild disease and will not need to be in hospital. [They] can be managed very safely and appropriately at home."

She added: "The important thing for us is to make sure that we manage those infections and make sure that those individuals who are most affected - our elderly people, particularly those with chronic underlying conditions - get in touch and get treatment, and that we support other people in the home environment."

Dr Harries also said that the fatality rate would rise in the early stages of a widespread outbreak before it drops again.

"That's all to do with how we count. It's not that we count the wrong bit, it's just that in an early phase it's easier to find people with coronavirus who are very severely ill," she told Sky News.

"We have them in hospitals in the healthcare systems and we can count them easily."

Dr Harries also doubled down on advice to the public that the best thing people can do to protect themselves is wash their hands and practice "good respiratory health", such as sneezing and coughing into tissues.

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NHS patients should access GP services digitally with "immediate effect" because of the coronavirus outbreak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons: "We're taking steps, of course, to improve access by making sure people can access primary care in the best possible way.

"I can be clear to the House today that we will take a digital-first approach to accessing primary care and outpatient appointments.

"So that wherever clinically and practically possible, people can access and should access primary care through phones and digital means.

"This is especially important in the current coronavirus outbreak.

"Already there is a rollout that's started, but we will make this across the country with immediate effect."

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