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Three things we’ve learned about coronavirus today

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Researchers studying the new coronavirus at VirPath Laboratory in Lyon
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Researchers studying the new coronavirus at VirPath Laboratory in Lyon
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Researchers studying the new coronavirus at VirPath Laboratory in Lyon

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Researchers studying the new coronavirus at VirPath Laboratory in Lyon

The latest news on the Covid-19 outbreak and efforts to contain it

One-Minute Read The Week Staff
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 1:45pm

The Week rounds up the latest coronavirus news from the past 24 hours.

A very stable virus

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Boston say the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is displaying “a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people”. This is “encouraging news for researchers hoping to create a long-lasting vaccine”, says The Washington Post. Flu, by contrast, mutates more quickly and therefore requires a new vaccine every year.

The Oxford model
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Half the UK population may have already had the virus, according to new analysis of transmission rates published last night by Oxford University’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group. If correct, this is another piece of good news. The conclusion would “imply that fewer than one in 1,000 of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment”, says the Financial Times - and mean that many people already have immunity to the disease. But “the accuracy of the Oxford model has not yet been confirmed”, the paper says.

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Preparing for the worst

Even the most optimistic forecasters expect a sharp rise in UK coronavirus cases within the next two weeks. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that the ExCel exhibition centre in London’s docklands would be turned into a 4,000-bed hospital to relieve pressure on existing hospitals and called for 250,000 volunteers to help transport food, medicines and recovered patients. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told MPs this morning that demand for intensive care is likely to “peak in approximately two to three weeks and then decline”. The ExCel facility, named the NHS Nightingale Hospital, “is expected to be operational from next week”, says ITV News.

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