Coronavirus UK update: GP appointments to be conducted via video link

Coronavirus cases have shot up to 373 in the UK, a number that is expected to rise in the coming weeks as the virus reaches its peak. The news of the sixth coronavirus-related death in the UK comes in the wake of 60 million people being placed under quarantine in Italy. The drastic escalation in policy raises questions around whether the UK government will enact a similar response. For now, social distancing to delay the spread has been central to the government’s action plan.


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Social distancing is a policy whereby steps are taken to avoid social contact between people to reduce widespread transmission.

As part of this effort, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has doubled down on his “digital-first” approach, whereby GP consultations and outpatient appointments are held digitally in a bid to minimise contact and transmission of the coronavirus.

The policy, which has already been implemented in parts of the country, will be extended across the country wherever “clinically and practically possible” and “with immediate effect”, he said.

He told MPs: “We’re taking steps of course to improve access by making sure people can access primary care in the best possible way.

“And I can be clear to the House today that we will take a digital-first approach to accessing primary care and outpatient appointments.

“So that wherever clinically and practically possible, people can access and should access primary care through phones and digital means.

“This is especially important in the current coronavirus outbreak.

“Already there is a rollout that’s started, but we will make this across the country with immediate effect.”

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The policy is the latest escalation in the “social distancing” approach to minimising the coronavirus threat to the public.

The logic behind minimising contact between people is based on the current understanding of the virus.

It is understood that the virus operates in the same way as respiratory infections, such as the common cold of flu.

These viral infections are spread by coming into contact with droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person, and data so far suggests coronavirus is spread in the same way.


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In addition to reducing contact between people, another key protective measure is to maintain hygiene standards.

The most important step is to wash your hands with soap and water often, and do this for at least 20 seconds, according to the NHS.

Other steps include:

  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean, warns the health site.

What do I do if I think I have it?

If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).

According to the NHS, this means you should:

  • Stay at home
  • Not go to work, school or public places
  • Not use public transport or taxis
  • Ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
  • Try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery Drivers to drop off food

“You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection,” explains the health body.

To keep up to date on the latest coronavirus news in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) provides a daily update at 9am.

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