No need for panic, say council leaders as coronavirus case reported in Essex

More cases of coronavirus are expected in Essex, but there is no need to for alarm, council leaders have said after health authorities confirmed the first case has been diagnosed in the county.

Essex’s first case of the Covid-19 virus was confirmed over the weekend and health bosses are now trying to track down the source.

The person infected with the virus had no relevant travel history and is believed to have contracted the illness from another unknown person.

Public Health England is yet to confirm where the case was reported.

Council leaders have spoken out to urge calm, telling residents that the best thing they can do is to follow official NHS advice.

Southend Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Ron Woodley (Ind), said: “No one has contacted me to say this case was in Southend and I would expect that if it was here someone from the health department would share that information.

“We are hoping that as the weather gets warmer, this will die off but the best thing people can do for now is to watch their personal hygiene and take precautions, such as washing hands, sneezing into a tissue and being particularly careful if you are attending an event.

“Essex is likely to get more cases, just as the rest of the country is likely to get more but I don’t think people need to panic.

“There is no point in guessing or asking what ifs. Let’s just see what happens and take in government advice.”

Basildon’s deputy council leader, Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind), was also confident the reported case was not in the town.

“There is nothing in Basildon. I’ve not heard anything and I would expect to have been told by now if it was,” he said.

“Right now, people just need to follow the advice of the health authorities. Make sure your hands are clean. If everybody does that it cuts the risk down.

“Keep your hands clean before touching your mouth or eyes.”

Councillor Norman Smith (Con), leader of Castle Point Council, said: “The virus is definitely 100 per cent not in Castle Point.

“I am of course looking closely at the situation to see how we will react if it comes to our borough.

“We have colleges, schools and sports facilities such as swimming pools and these will have to be looked at if there was a case. I am glad nothing has happened yet but we have a strategy in place just in case.

“My advice would be the same as that of national health bosses, this includes self-isolation if you’ve come back from an affected area. We must also be regularly washing our hands and taking the proper precautions. We are making sure we are prepared for this.”

Some have compared the severity of Covid-19 to the flu but while both are infectious respiratory illnesses, a Chinese study found the coronavirus to have a death rate of 2.3 per cent while the death rate from flu is below 1 per cent.

Unlike seasonal flu, there is also no vaccine for Covid-19 and very little information such as a proper understanding of how it is transmitted and how long it takes for people to display symptoms after infection.

As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use and antiviral drugs used to combat the flu have also been found to be ineffective.

The NHS currently outlines symptoms as being a cough, shortness of breath and a high temperature.

To reduce the risk of contracting the virus, the health authority advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze and wash hands with soap and water.

Anyone who suspects that have the illness are told to call 111 or use the NHS’ online coronavirus service.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as this could put others at risk.

Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England has called it “likely” that the UK will see more widespread infection.

“It could happen in the next few days or it could take a little longer,” he said.

Mr Cosford has also stressed the vast majority of people make a full recovery from coronavirus, with children and otherwise healthy adults appearing to be at much lower risk of serious complications

Thurrock Council, Rochford Council and Public Health England have been contacted for comment.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter