The Radcliffe Camera seen from Carfax Tower
The Radcliffe Camera seen from Carfax Tower

Oxfordshire now has its first coronavirus cases, health officials have confirmed, as the total UK count rises to 163. The Oxfordshire County Council announced that the cases, which are not linked with each other, are associated with foreign travel.

Ansaf Azhar, the director of public health at Oxfordshire County Council, said that the council is “working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Oxfordshire are protected.” He also confirmed that that there was still a low risk to the general public and that “if you have not been contacted by Public Health England as a close contact of the confirmed cases you do not need to take any action at this time.”

Azhar also advised residents of simple steps that could be taken to prevent spread of the virus – including using tissues for sneezing or coughing and immediately throwing them in a bin, frequent handwashing, and not touching your face without having washed your hands. He further advised that those who have come into contact with individuals who had travelled to affected areas or have done so themselves, and believe they have symptoms of coronavirus, should self-isolate instead of going to an A&E, and contact the NHS helpline on 111 which provides an online coronavirus service that can tell if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

Appearing on a BBC Question Time Coronavirus special, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran urged residents to remain calm. Appearing alongside her was Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who encouraged those who needed to self-isolate to also do so within their homes by staying away from family members, in order to slow the spread of the virus. Both Moran and Hancock also urged individuals not to engage in panic buying of goods.

Concerns over the virus have also led to reductions in personal contact, with the Premier League banning players from shaking hands before matches due to the outbreak. Oxford’s Lord Mayor also announced that he would not shake hands with people ‘until the risk from the coronavirus outbreak has diminished’. Nonetheless, during his visit to Oxford on Thursday, Prince Charles shook hands with people at Jesus College, where he met primary school pupils, students, staff, fellows, and alumni before going to Kellogg College to receive the Bynum Tudor Fellowship. Similarly, US president Donald Trump said he would continue to shake hands, arguing that “you can’t be a politician and not shake hands”, although others, including his vice-president Mike Pence, have adopted ‘elbow-bumping’ as an alternative greeting.

The cases in Oxfordshire bring the total number of coronavirus cases in the UK to 163, with an increase of 48 cases since Thursday. Thursday also saw the first coronavirus death in the UK: a woman in her 70s with previous medical conditions from Reading. A second death also took place, with Sky News reporting that a man in his 80s, who also had previous medical conditions, has passed away from the disease. There are 147 cases in England, 11 in Scotland, 3 in Northern Ireland and 2 in Wales. The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide has crossed 100,000, with over 3,400 deaths at time of publication. Total recoveries are around 60,000, 18 of which are in the UK.

World Health Organization’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that “globally, about 3.4% of reported Covid-19 cases have died”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK government’s “very best assessment” was that the mortality rate was “2% or, likely, lower”.