Former Health Secretary warns ‘one million Britons’ will have coronavirus by next week?

Jeremy Hunt (Photo: POLITICO Europe)

One million Britons will have the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by the end of next week, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has cautioned.

Hunt, a Conservative Member of Parliament, criticised the government’s policy of only testing patients in hospital for COVID-19. He said the rate of infection meant one million people in the UK will have coronavirus by the end of next week.

Speaking in the House of Commons while debating emergency coronavirus legislation on Monday (March 23), hours before Boris Johnson announced new stringent measures, Hunt said Britain had fallen behind other nations with its response to the pandemic.

There have been 8,077 cases of coronavirus in the UK, with 422 deaths, according to official figures.

But Hunt said scientific modelling which estimates 1,000 cases for every death means the UK currently has about 300,000 people with coronavirus.

He said: “According to the same modellers, the number of cases is doubling every five days, which means that at the end of next week we will have about one million cases or more in this country.

“Unless we radically change direction, we will not know where those one million cases are.”

Hunt said: “Here, all our public focus has been on social distancing, but testing and contact tracing to break the chain of transmission are every bit as important, if not more important.