Up to 10,000 people in UK may already have coronavirus say ministers

Up to 10,000 people in the UK may already have coronavirus, the government has warned, as people with coughs or fever are warned to self-isolate for seven days. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today (March12) that the UK is now facing the "worst public health crisis for a generation”, and that “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference addressing the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak on March 12, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Simon Dawson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference addressing the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak on March 12, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Simon Dawson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Currently, 596 cases have been confirmed in the UK, but Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, warns that the actual number of people infected could be between 5,000 and 10,000. 

Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting, Mr Johnson said:  “The true number of cases is higher, perhaps much higher, than the number of cases we’ve confirmed with tests.

“Some people compare it to seasonal flu, alas that is not right. Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous.

"It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."

The number of UK cases rose by more than 100 today, up from 456 yesterday.

Of the 491 cases in England, six are in South Yorkshire, six are in Nottinghamshire, and five are in Derbyshire. 

Sir Patrick Vallance said:“There are currently 590 cases that have been identified in the UK and there are more than 20 patients on intensive care units.

“If you calculate what that really means, it’s much more likely that we’ve got somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people infected at the moment.”