Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance are pictured during a news conference about coronavirus at Downing Street in London, Britain March 9, 2020. Alberto Pezzali/Pool via REUTERS

A fifth person in the United Kingdom has died after contracting coronavirus, the health service said.

“We can confirm that sadly, a patient in their seventies who was very unwell with a number of significant and long term health conditions has passed away at St Helier Hospital,” said Daniel Elkeles, chief executive for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in a statement.

“They had tested positive for COVID-19,” Elkeles said. “Our thoughts and condolences remain with the patient’s family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

The country now had 319 confirmed cases, up from 273 on Sunday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday held an emergency government meeting to discuss when to bring in more stringent measures, though the government said it was not yet advising the closure of large events.

“We remain in the contain phase of the outbreak but … our scientists think containment is extremely unlikely to work on its own and that is why we are making extensive preparations for a move to the delay phase,” Johnson said at a news conference.

“Whatever is happening in other countries, whatever measures are being urged upon us, be in no doubt we are considering absolutely all of them and in due time they may of course become necessary but … timing is crucial.”

The new coronavirus, which emerged in China in December, causes a disease called COVID-19. It has spread around the world, infecting more than 110,000 people and 3,800 people have died worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

Speaking alongside Johnson on Monday, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said he was expecting numbers to “increase initially slowly but then quite fast.”

“We are now very close to the time, probably within the next 10-14 days when … we should move to a situation where we say everybody who has even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self isolating for 7 days afterwards,” he said.


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