Sadiq Khan admits he is “scared” by coronavirus

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Sadiq Khan has admitted he is “scared” by coronavirus – highlighting the absence of a vaccine or anti-viral treatment for the disease.

The Mayor said every death from Covid-19 is “heart-breaking” and he is “scared about the numbers”.

Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, as the USA shut its borders to travellers from Europe in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading.

First identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Covid-19 has now infected more than 100,000 people worldwide – with almost 5,000 fatalities.

More than 400 cases have been confirmed in the UK, and eight people have died – including one patient in London.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty has said coronavirus appears to have a mortality rate of one per cent or less – comparable with the flu.

But speaking on LBC Radio this morning, Mr Khan said the comparison with flu deaths was “no comfort”.

He said: “Anybody dying of an illness that they may not have caught is upsetting and it’s scary.

“The bad news is there is no vaccination for the coronavirus.

“The bad news is there is no anti-viral treatment – so what we’ve got to try and do is contain and delay it as long as we can.”

But the Mayor reassured Londoners there was “no complacency” from City Hall.

Mr Khan said he met with the Chief Medical Officer yesterday, who confirmed that London remains safe.

He said residents should go about their normal business – while taking “prudent” precautions like washing hands, and using disposable tissues.

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The Mayor – who yesterday welcomed the government’s emergency budget measures to tackle the virus – said he would not score political points by criticising the Prime Minister.

He said: “There is motive for me to criticise Boris Johnson. Having a dividing line with a Conservative Prime Minister makes political sense.

“I’m not going to do it for that reason. Where I agree with Boris Johnson I’ll agree with him.

“Where I disagree with him I’ll say I disagree with him. I agree with the Prime Minister.”

Britain is now expected to move from a ‘contain’ to ‘delay’ phase in its approach to Covid-19, following a meeting of the government’s Cobra response team at lunchtime today.

This means the UK will primarily focus on slowing the spread of the virus, rather than isolating patients to prevent a wider outbreak.

Mr Khan said it was clear the number of cases would continue to grow.

He said: “The key thing is to try and push that peak as far as we can towards spring and summer, and get that peak down through a combination of containing and delaying.”

The Mayor will not attend today’s Cobra meeting, despite asking the government to include him – and said he has had no explanation for why he is excluded.

Mr Khan has attended Cobra meetings in the past under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s leadership – including after the London Bridge attack in November last year.

He admitted it was “odd” to exclude the Mayor of London, but said he didn’t want to “quibble” with the government’s approach.

He said: “The good news is I’ve got access to the experts that advise the Prime Minister around Cobra – from the Chief Medical Officer to the Chief Scientific Advisor to Public Health England.”

He added: “I don’t want anybody to be under any impression that there’s complacency from City Hall.

“We’re in regular contact many times during the course of a day, often during the course of an hour, with Public Health England to make sure we can pass on to Londoners the best possible advice.”

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