Coronavirus: Professor who swayed Britain's pandemic response undergoes self-isolation

People wearing face masks walk down Regent Street in London on March 17, 2020.
People wearing face masks walk down Regent Street in London on March 17, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - A British professor who was in Downing Street this week after convincing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stiffen his response to the coronavirus outbreak has self-isolated after developing a persistent dry cough and a fever.

"Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self-isolated even though I felt fine," said Professor Neil Ferguson, a mathematical biology expert at Imperial College London. "Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of Covid-19 in Westminster," he said on Twitter.

As of Tuesday (March 17), there were 1,950 coronavirus cases in Britain, up from 1,543 the day before, the health ministry said.

Britain reported its first confirmed coronavirus case on Jan 31. There have so far been 56 reported deaths.

The government hopes the measures it has taken to tackle coronavirus mean that it will have below 20,000 deaths from the outbreak, the government's chief scientific adviser, Dr Patrick Vallance, said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the government ramped up its battle against the virus, shutting down social life in Britain and ordering the most vulnerable to isolate for 12 weeks.

Dr Vallance said the impact of the measures on the number of infections should be seen in two to three weeks. Based on the modelling being used by the government, it is a "reasonable ballpark" that Britain actually has around 55,000 cases of the virus, he said.

He told a committee of lawmakers when asked about deaths: "If we can get this down to 20,000 and below, that is a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to with this outbreak. It is still horrible, it is still an enormous number of deaths and it is an enormous pressure on the health service."