NOEA’s CEO Susan Tanner has offered advice and updates on significant coronavirus related news…

There’s a few pieces of Coronavirus news this morning that are worth noting. Obviously the collapse of Flybe is the big story as this will have a significant and immediate impact on regional connectivity in the UK which will put increased pressure on destinations that are already seeing a downturn in visitors.

Secondly, the chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has just been holding a press conference where he has made the following remarks in response to questions. You will note that in the Action Plan the first stage is to try and contain the outbreak while the second stage, Delay, is to accept that the disease can’t be contained and therefore try to slow the infection rate instead with the premise that, under a worse case scenario, up to 80% of the population could contract the disease.

Q: Are you anticipating moving from the ‘contain’ phase of the plan to the ‘delay’ phase in the next few days?

The government has had four aims. First, containing the outbreak. That is now an “extraordinary unlikely” long-term outcome, he says. He says “containing looks pretty optimistic” now. Second, delaying the outbreak. Whitty says this approach overlaps in many ways with contain. He says if you can push back the peak of the outbreak, you get at least two, and possibly three benefits.

He says you delay the peak until the NHS is in a better to respond. He says you also get more time to deal with the disease, either by managing it or developing drugs. And he says there may be a seasonal element to this; if you move into spring and the summer, the rate of infection may go down. That is the case with flu, he says.

Q: So are you going to move from contain to delay within the next few days?

Whitty says there won’t be a “step move’” to delay. He says it is a matter of putting more emphasis on the delay elements. In the early stage the contain and delay strategies are similar. But later other measures will be needed.

Q: So there won’t be a moment where you move from stage one to stage two.

That’s correct, Whitty says. But he says the UK has moved from the “mainly contain” stage to the “mainly delay” stage.

The key take-out from this is that it looks like there is now a general acceptance that there will be no quick resolution to the outbreak and that the impacts will probably increase and continue until at least the summer.