75-year-old Nottinghamshire woman may be first known British victim of coronavirus

pharmafile | August 26, 2020 | News story | Research and Development COVID-19, coronavirus 

A 75-year-old woman from Nottinghamshire is thought to be the first British case and victim of COVID-19.

She tested positive for the virus on 21 February, and was admitted to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and later died on 3 March. Her death came two days earlier than the first official death from the virus.

The first British case of COVID-19 was previously believed to be a man from Surrey who tested positive on 28 February.

Scientists have also analysed samples from Queen’s Medical Centre that dated back to January and discovered the virus had been circulating in the area between February and March. They said that it was not detected at the time because the government had restricted what deaths could be classed as a coronavirus fatality.

Many believe this action taken by the government worsened the pandemic. Professor Jonathan Ball, one of the authors of this research, said: “Had the diagnostic criteria for COVID-19 been widened earlier to include patients with compatible symptoms but no travel history, it is likely that earlier imported infections would have been detected, which could have led to an earlier lockdown and lower deaths.

“However, the capacity for testing available nationally was not sufficient at the time to process the volume of testing required with a broader case definition.”

Initially in the UK, only people who had recently travelled to Hubei province in China, or had been in contact with a known case, were tested for the virus. This was later expanded to include people who had travelled from Iran and Italy, before being removed as a prerequisite for being tested.

Conor Kavanagh

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