Easter holiday plans were in chaos last night as coronavirus cases surged and a second UK death was linked to the disease.
Airlines including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair are axing flights due to plummeting demand as confirmed global cases topped 100,000, with 3,400 deaths.
UK cases also soared to 164, a rise of 49 on the previous day – Britain’s biggest day-on-day increase yet.
A scientist helping develop a vaccine for the virus has called it the worst disease outbreak since Spanish flu, which killed millions in 1918.
Dr Richard Hatchett, who leads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: “This is the most frightening disease I’ve ever encountered in my career, and that includes Ebola, it includes MERS and it includes SARS.
"The most concerning thing is the combination of infectiousness and the ability to cause severe disease or death.”
Cases are rocketing across Europe, leading to many rethinking their spring holiday plans.
The death toll in Italy rose from 148 to 197 last night, with 4,600 confirmed cases.
Foreign Office ministers are considering extending travel warnings across the entire country, from the current advice against the quarantined zone in the north of the country.
Ibiza has confirmed its first case after an Italian tourist there tested positive for the disease, after six cases were recorded on the neighbouring island of Majorca.
Two more people died from coronavirus in France, taking the total to nine, while the number of confirmed infections there rose by 154 to 577.
Confirmed cases in Germany tripled in two days, rising from 180 on Tuesday to 555 by 4pm on Thursday.
Belgium’s cases more than doubled to 109 yesterday while Greece detected 14 new cases, bringing the total in the country to 45.
Meanwhile, a 43-year-old British businessman was confirmed with Covid-19 in Thailand.
Two British Airways baggage handlers have tested positive, and were recovering in isolation at home.
Butlins and Center Parcs said their holiday parks were open for business, although Center Parcs urged booked guests who have symptoms to inform them and, if the virus is suspected, to cancel their trip.
Visit Somerset, where Glastonbury is held in June, said there have been spring break cancellations.
The Royal British Legion said it may have to scale back VE Day 75th anniversary events on May 8 to protect elderly veterans.
It said: “The welfare and safety of our veterans is our priority. We will follow the relevant advice from Public Health England.”
Travel insurance sales have surged – up 168% year-on-year for the Post Office and 150% at CoverForYou, with traffic to insurance pages at TravelSupermarket up 85% in a week.
Samples from a patient in his 80s who died at Milton Keynes Hospital in Buckinghamshire were last night being investigated for coronavirus.
Hospital staff who nursed him have gone into isolation and a detailed contact-tracing exercise was under way. Fellow patients on his ward were isolated and a deep clean carried out.
If tests are positive, the man – who was understood to have had underlying health conditions – will be the second to die here from the virus after a woman in her 70s died on Thursday.
A child at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool has tested positive, but no details of age or gender were given.
A church has been closed after a parishioner was diagnosed with coronavirus after attending the Holy Communion service at St Mary’s in Churston Ferrers, Devon, on Sunday.
Facebook closed its London offices until Monday after a Singapore-based employee who visited last month was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Hopes of a vaccine to stem the outbreak were dashed yesterday.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said one might be ready next year, but added: “I don’t think we will get the vaccine for this outbreak.”
Scams linked to the outbreak have cost consumers over £800,000.
Many involved people trying to buy protective masks, with one victim paying £15,000 for masks that never arrived, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said.
Public Health England urged people to “plan ahead” for possible self-isolation.
However, panic-buying has led to the Government setting up a working group with supermarkets to thrash out a plan to tackle shortages.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are working to makes sure that if people are self-isolating, they will be able to get the food and supplies that they need.”
But surging demand for hand sanitiser has led to the gel being stolen from hospitals on a daily basis.
Northampton General Hospital reported wall-mounted dispensers being ripped off and visitors using the hospital’s supply to top up their own bottles.
Campaigners urged ministers to come up with a plan to help combat the spread of the virus among homeless people who find it harder to follow government advice to wash hands regularly and self-isolate if ill.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran has written to Matt Hancock and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick asking how health checks are going to be carried out for those sleeping on our streets.
Matthew Downie of homeless charity Crisis said: “People sleeping rough are particularly vulnerable.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are already working closely with local authorities to support vulnerable groups including homeless people. We will publish further guidance shortly.”
More than 20,000 Brits have now been tested for the virus. Around one in 100 who get it is expected to die.
Early evidence suggests the risk rises to one in 50 for those with serious conditions. For those aged over 80 the death rate is thought to be one in 33.
Ozzy Osbourne, 71, has cancelled plans to appear at the SXSW media conference in Austin, Texas, as he continues his fight against Parkinson’s.
Global stockmarkets suffered a £1trillion slump yesterday, with over £60billion wiped off the FTSE 100, hitting the lowest level since the Brexit referendum in 2016.
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