Another 208 people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 798. Ten people have died of the disease.
The Department of Health released updated official figures after a further 13 cases were confirmed in Wales. On Thursday, the government’s top scientist warned that despite official figures, it is likely that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK are already infected.
Boris Johnson called coronavirus ‘the worst public health crisis for a generation’ as the country’s leading health and science experts warned we must all do our bit to help ease pressure on the NHS in the weeks and months to come.
Announcing a move from the ‘containment’ phase into the ‘delay’ phase of the government’s four-step battle plan against the disease, the PM said anyone with symptoms, however mild, such as a continuous cough or high temperature, must now stay at home for seven days.
Greater social distancing measures and plans to close schools and encourage home working will come into place in the coming weeks, he said, but was criticised for not implementing them already, with some arguing his measures to tackle coronavirus don’t go far enough.
In a press conference at Downing Street, the PM said families will continue to ‘lose loved ones before their time’ as the outbreak worsens, prompting former health secretary Jeremy Hunt to call the new measures ‘concerning’.
He has questioned the decision not to cancel large gatherings after the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said Britain is around four weeks behind Italy in terms of the trajectory of the disease.
On Thursday, Ireland announced the closure of all schools and childcare facilities and other public spaces such as museums, while Scotland banned gatherings of more than 500 people.
The UK Government said it would not move to close schools yet as the evidence for its effectiveness is lacking, though this will be kept under review.
Jeremy Hunt told the BBC’s Newsnight: ‘I think it is surprising and concerning that we’re not doing any of it at all when we have just four weeks before we get to the stage that Italy is at.
‘You would have thought that every single thing we do in that four weeks would be designed to slow the spread of people catching the virus.’
He added that he is ‘personally surprised that we’re still allowing external visits to care homes’.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.