Last Thursday, the British government quietly revealed they had lowered their estimate of the severity of the coronavirus, changing its status from a “high consequence infectious disease,” which it had assigned the disease in January, to acknowledging it no longer viewed the disease as such, and admitting “more information is available about mortality rates (low overall).”
The British government wrote:
As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious diseases (HCID) in the UK.
The 4 nations public health HCID group made an interim recommendation in January 2020 to classify COVID-19 as an HCID. This was based on consideration of the UK HCID criteria about the virus and the disease with information available during the early stages of the outbreak. Now that more is known about COVID-19, the public health bodies in the UK have reviewed the most up to date information about COVID-19 against the UK HCID criteria. They have determined that several features have now changed; in particular, more information is available about mortality rates (low overall), and there is now greater clinical awareness and a specific and sensitive laboratory test, the availability of which continues to increase.
The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.
The need to have a national, coordinated response remains, but this is being met by the government’s COVID-19 response.
The British government listed the requirements for a disease to be named a high consequence infectious disease as these:
- acute infectious disease
- typically has a high case-fatality rate
- may not have effective prophylaxis or treatment
- often difficult to recognise and detect rapidly
- ability to spread in the community and within healthcare settings
- requires an enhanced individual, population and system response to ensure it is managed effectively, efficiently and safely
The British government also made a distinction between contact HCIDs and airborne HCIDs:
- contactHCIDs are usually spread by direct contact with an infected patient or infected fluids, tissues and other materials, or by indirect contact with contaminated materials and fomites
- airborneHCIDs are spread by respiratory droplets or aerosol transmission, in addition to contact routes of transmission
An example of a contact HCID is the Ebola virus; an example of an airborne HCID is Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The Washington Times noted, “Through Wednesday morning, according to government figures, Britain reported 9,529 positive cases of coronavirus out of just over 97,000 people tested and 463 virus-related deaths.”
This week, as The Daily Wire reported, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson limited all public gatherings in Britain to just two people and urged residents to leave their homes once a day for exercise and to travel only when “absolutely necessary,” to get groceries or needed medication. All non-essential businesses (bars, in-dining restaurants, etc.) were closed until further notice.
Johnson had a blunt statement for the public, asserting, “To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.”