Expert Opinion – One Coronavirus Patient Could Infect Up to 59,000 Others

Dr Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London
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An intensive care specialist has described how one person with coronavirus could infect up to 59,000 others – as the virus is more than twice as infectious as flu.

Dr Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London, explained how the virus could be passed from one person to thousands as he called on Britons to heed advice on social distancing.

‘Normal flu, if I get that, I’m going to infect on average about 1.3 or 1.4 people – if there was such a division.’

‘If those 1.3 or 1.4 people gave it to the next lot that’s the second time it gets passed on. By the time that’s happened 10 times, I’ve been responsible for about 14 cases of flu.’

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Dr Montgomery went on to illustrate how coronavirus is far more infectious than the common flu, with one person potentially infecting 59,000 others under the same circumstances.

‘This coronavirus is very, very infectious, so every person passes it to three,’ Dr Montgomery said.

‘Now that doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but if each of those three passes it to three, and that happens at 10 layers, I have been responsible for infecting 59,000 people.’

He went on to urge Britons not to ignore advice on social distancing as the ‘best chance’ we can give those who do fall ill is keeping hospital beds free.

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‘I’m not going to play it down,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be horrible for a large number of people.

‘This is the issue: we’ve got a limited resource, a limited number of ventilators, a limited number of doctors, a limited number of nurses – which is fine because we can’t run ourselves with a huge excess capacity all the time.

‘If we overwhelm that, we can’t provide that service of caring for these people properly.’

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