Four in five people in the UK could become infected with the coronavirus in a worst case scenario, the Government has said.
A document from the National Security Communications Team, seen by the Sun, suggests 80 per cent of people could be contaminated with Covid-19, meaning more than 50 million cases.
Experts have said the illness is thought to result in a one per cent mortality rate, meaning 500,000 people would die in the UK in this scenario – the equivalent of the population of the city of Liverpool.
Scotland’s chief medical officer has confirmed emergency preparation has been ratcheted up across the UK in order to prepare for such a situation.
Referring to the document, a Government spokesman told the Standard: “We have been clear from the outset that we expect coronavirus to have some impact on the UK, which is why we are planning for every eventuality – including the reasonable worst case scenario.
“Crucially this does not mean we expect it to happen.”
A total of 6,795 people have been tested in the UK with 13 positive cases, figures from Tuesday state. There have been no fatalities in the UK.
Dr Catherine Calderwood, chief medical officer for Scotland, told BBC Radio 5Live the risk to people in the UK “remains low” but said there will inevitably be more cases.
She said that 50 to 80 per cent of people could be infected in a “pandemic” situation, with a fatality rate of around one to two per cent.
In the instance that 80 per cent of the population was infected, a one per cent death rate would suggest around half a million people could die.
She said in the worst instance there would be a large number of hospital submissions and she added: “Very significant numbers of people would die.”
The chances of a worst case scenario is around 10 to 15 per cent, she added.
“We have ways of working in the NHS, we are prepared,” she said.
The Government across the UK has “stepped up” emergency planning.
“We haven’t had many cases in the UK as yet and we’re still waiting and watching,” Dr Calderwood said.
An expert previously suggested 400,000 could be contaminated with the virus in the UK.
China, where the virus broke out, has reported 78,064 cases and 2,715 deaths.
South Korea has the second highest number of cases with 1,146 and 11 deaths.
In Europe, Italy has been the worst hit nation, with 322 infections and 11 deaths.