WORCESTERSHIRE is fully prepared for the coronavirus, the county’s public health boss has said.

Dr Kathryn Cobain, director of Public Health at Worcestershire County Council, said health bodies across the county are ready if any cases of the virus are found and went to great lengths to emphasise the need for people to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently as the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Really good, effective handwashing is one of the most effective preventative measures of spreading the virus,” she said.

Read more: County's first coronavirus case confirmed

Dr Cobain said the county would not yet be taking the same drastic measures as the Italian government by forcing an immediate lockdown nor were schools or large events going to be closed or cancelled.

“We have a population of 66 million in the UK and we’ve got 319 cases, at the moment I’m completely behind the chief medical officer and the deputy chief medical officer and the government that that would not be a proportionate measure,” she said.

“You have got to think about the economic impacts and the social impacts as well.

“We’re social animals aren’t we and if we’re suddenly told you can’t do this, you can’t do that, it might get to the point where people start breaking [the restrictions] if it goes on for too long.”

“You would be risking some damage to the economy, but you do need to protect the public as well. It’s about that balance.

“It is being very closely monitored. So, at the minute no, but the situation can quickly change, it did change quickly in Italy, but I think the government are doing absolutely everything they should be by monitoring it so closely.

“For me the message to get out there to the community, to everybody, is about washing your hands, using a tissue and coughing into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Really simple stuff.”

On school closures, Dr Cobain said she would continue to back the stance of national health bosses who were not yet saying schools should close.

“Schools have closed before for various infectious disease outbreaks. Schools have closed before for the norovirus and I don’t think you’re talking about one or two cases [for the school to close], you’re talking more about a ‘situation’,” she said.

“You really need to take the situation as it comes. It wouldn’t be done lightly and certainly, at the minute, Public Health England ‘s chief medical officers are not advising that schools should close.

“It’s based on the evidence that you have got at the time, it’s not something you jump to really.”