Boris Johnson plunged Britain into lockdown today – urging everyone in the country to stop all ‘non-essential’ contact with others.
The PM warned that the coronavirus was now in a phase of rapid spread across the UK, and it was time to take radical action to stop the NHS being swamped.
Anyone in a household where someone has been showing symptoms should isolate, he said. And the rest of Britain should avoid all contact that was not necessary – with restaurants, bars and cinemas and travel off limits, and a ban on large gatherings.
At a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: ‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others.’
Admitting that the squeeze could last 12 weeks, Mr Johnson said that meant ‘you should not go out, even to buy food or essentials’ – and acknowledged was ‘asking a lot’.
‘If necessary, you should ask for help from others for your daily necessities. If that is not possible, you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies,’ he said.
‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and stop all non-essential travel. We need people to start working from home where they possible can. You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.’
In a special plea to the capital, Mr Johnson said people there were at the highest risk. ‘It looks as though London is now a few weeks ahead… it’s important that Londoners now pay special attention to what we are saying about avoiding all non-essential contact.’
The dramatic move came amid growing criticism of the UK government’s response, which has looked increasingly out of step with that around the globe. However, Mr Johnson said he was not yet ordering schools to be closed.
‘We think at the moment on balance it is much better if we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons,’ he said.
‘But this is something that we need to keep under review.’
The World Health Organisation earlier swiped at the abandonment of testing for those with symptoms, saying it was like trying to ‘fight a fire blindfolded’.
The PM warned that the coronavirus was now in a phase of rapid spread across the UK, and it was time to take radical action to stop the NHS being swamped
Mr Johnson was flanked by Chief medical officer Chris Whitty (left) and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance (right) at the press conference in Downing Street tonight
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty, speaking alongside Mr Johnson and chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance in Downing Street, said the restrictions on families were crucial.
‘If one person in the household has symptoms the whole household stays at home,’ Prof Whitty said.
Fears over the impact of the coronavirus were laid bare today in a leaked Public Health England (PHE) briefing warning that a ‘worst case’ scenario could see an epidemic last until spring next year, and mean 7.9million needing hospital treatment.
Downing Street stressed the 7.9million figure was just the reasonable worst case scenario and ‘does not mean that is what we expect to happen’.
France has imposed controls on its border with Germany, and transport restrictions are in force across much of Europe, with schools, pubs and restaurants closed. Austria is banning gatherings of more than five people. The US has barred all travellers from Europe.
However, beyond urging those with a cough or a fever to self-isolate, the UK authorities have up to now held off the most draconian steps, saying the timing must be right for them to be effective.
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that Britain will soon need the same tough steps, as it was only a ‘little behind’ neighbours such as France and Germany in the progress of the disease.
The British public appears to be taking matters into their own hands today, with commuter trains unusually empty as workers opt to stay at home. Mr Shapps suggested ‘ghost’ services could be halted altogether, as airlines announced more cancellations and demanded a bailout.
Amid rising criticism, Mr Johnson is to chair another Cobra emergency meeting later, and daily press briefings will be staged to reassure the public everything possible is being done.
Ministers have appealed for major manfacturers to overhaul their factories to produce ventilators to help those who are most at risk from the illness.
Under tough new powers, people who refuse to go into quarantine face being detained or slapped with a fine of up to £1,000.
Police are able to use ‘reasonable force’ to constrain those who could infect others.
The streets were unusually quiet in Bristol this morning (pictured) as Britain reacted to the coronavirus escalation
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (right) defended growing criticism of the UK’s limited action so far, saying it was ‘science led’ and accusing other countries of ‘populist’ measures. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay (left) was in Whitehall for meetings today
Railway concourses including London’s Euston (pictured) were sparsely populated today as the public adjusted to the new coronavirus reality
No10 chief Dominic Cummings leaves home for work today (right). Left, a man in Manchester city centre appears to wear protective gear during the crisis
Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty are in Whitehall today as the government says it will keep following their advice
As Britons were urged to rally together to fight coronavirus:
- There have been 1,543 positive tests for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am today, up from 1,372 yesterday. The death toll has risen to at least 36 after the first fatality in Wales;
- The PM is holding a conference call with other G7 world leaders as they try to coordinate a response to the crisis;
- London and other major cities have been eerily quiet as millions of workers opted to stay at home amid the unfolding turmoil;
- The EU has announced a temporary ban on all non-essential travel into the bloc;
- The World Health Organisation has swiped at the responses by countries such as the UK, saying not testing and isolating suspected cases was like trying to ‘fight a fire blindfolded’;
- The FTSE temporarily dipped below the 5,000 level as the markets took fright at the enormous scale of the coronavirus threat;
- The government is appealing for manufacturers to help produce more ventilators for millions of people expected to become critically ill, but doubts have been raised about the practicalities of the idea;
- Routine inspections are to be suspended for hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced;
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is meeting school leaders to discuss potential closures and exams being postponed amid the outbreak;
- Singapore has directly criticised the UK for arguing there is ‘no point containing’ coronavirus cases, saying that could mean numbers rise more rapidly;
- British Airways and EasyJet have announced ‘further significant cancellations’ as a result of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic;
- The worldwide coronavirus death toll is believed to have topped 6,500 with some 170,000 people infected;
- Labour MP Kate Osborne has become the second politician diagnosed with coronavirus, with more than a dozen more in isolation;
- Labour has downgraded its orders for MPs to attend Parliament this week amid fears that they could become ‘superspreaders’;
Pushed on the relative lack of UK action so far, Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘The UK has probably just been at a slightly different stage – compared with places like Italy but also a little behind where France and Germany are.
‘It’s not that we’re not going to get there, but of course our responses are timed in a different way, unique to the particular stage of this that we’re in in the UK.’
Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme services would be maintained, but added there is no point running ‘ghost trains’.
He also played down criticism over the testing regime in the UK, saying the government is carrying out more tests than any other state apart from Italy and China.
Empty trains and roads as rail passengers ‘down by a fifth’
Train passenger numbers slumped by a fifth last week as coronavirus panic took hold, it was revealed today.
Commuter services and streets were unusually empty this morning as the public took matters into their own hands, despite the government’s limited advice.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there had been an 18 per cent-20 per cent drop off in the volume of train passengers last week, as Britons reacted to the situation.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme services would be maintained, but added there is no point running ‘ghost trains’.
‘The railways have definitely seen a big drop off … last week by about 18-20 per cent in the number of passengers and we’re working with them closely,’ he said.
Transport for London said Tube passengers were down 19 per cent on the same period last year, while bus used had dipped 10 per cent.
‘We are working very hard to do things including, for example, providing the ability for home testing, but just in terms of scientific technology – getting those tests available, in other words inventing tests that can be used that quickly and in that way – they are not available at this time,’ he said.
‘Having said that, the UK – I think I’m right in saying other than China and Italy – is carrying out more tests than any other country in the world, so we are ahead of the game in terms of testing.’
The Transport Secretary said people over the age of 70 will be asked to self-isolate ‘as and when the moment is right’ – but that they would still be able to go outside and ‘walk the dog’.
He said it is ‘quite likely’ that elderly people would have to self-isolate for months, but added: ‘It is the case that people will be able to go out and walk the dog. It’s about being sensible but not mixing in crowds.’
However, the UK appears increasingly out of step with other countries in terms of its response to the emergency.
Singapore foreign minister Lawrence Wong suggested Britain’s abandonment of efforts to ‘contain’ coronavirus will lead to cases rising ‘even more sharply’.
He told a press conference: ‘In the case of the UK it is rising very rapidly but it’s not just about the numbers but the fact that these countries have abandoned any attempt at containing the spread of the virus.
‘They have said so publicly, especially the UK and Switzerland, perhaps less so for Japan; but certainly in the case of the UK and Switzerland.
‘I think the UK has been most public in acknowledging that there’s no point containing and they are simply now at the phase of trying to delay the spread.
‘So if there is no deliberate effort to contain then we anticipate that the numbers of infected cases in these countries will rise even more sharply in the coming days or weeks, and that’s why we are quite concerned.’
In an unprecedented peacetime intervention yesterday, the Health Secretary said the over-70s will be told ‘within weeks’ to stay at home – for up to four months.
Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have already vowed to join forces to help those in need, including delivering shopping and medication.
Mr Johnson will address the nation over the pandemic later alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The first daily briefings will come after the PM chairs a Cobra committee meeting expected to focus on plans to shield elderly and vulnerable citizens, household isolation and mass gatherings.
No 10 announced the plans to hold televised daily briefings after Mr Johnson received criticism over an apparent lack of transparency in the fight against Covid-19.
Charities have urged the public not to ‘back away’ from the elderly and instead get in touch with neighbours using postcards or letters to see if you can help.
An online movement to place volunteers with vulnerable residents is growing at an extraordinary rate, with almost 400 ‘mutual aid’ groups being established across the UK in little over 24 hours.
Labour MP Kate Osborne is second diagnosed with coronavirus
A Labour backbencher announced she had become the second British MP to contract coronavirus today as another 15 self-isolated themselves.
Jarrow’s Kate Osborne made the announcement on Twitter as Parliament began to take steps to operate with fewer politicians present.
She follows Health Minister Nadine Dorries, 62, who is recovering at home after testing positive last week.
The Government has indicated that it wants the Commons to remain open with emergency legislation expected to be passed this week to give authorities more powers to deal with the pandemic.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, which came into force last month, says those suspected of infection could be held for up to 14 days in a secure hospital or other suitable location.
Anybody who tries to make an escape can be taken into custody before being returned to detention or isolation, the regulations state.
Failing to comply is a criminal offence punishable with a fine of up to £1,000. Those who refuse to pay could also be imprisoned.
The regulations also state those suspected of being infected will have mandatory tests –such as giving a blood sample or having their nose and throat swabbed.
They must also give their travel history and a list of those they have recently met – and will be slapped with fines for providing false information.
The call to arms coincided with Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s extraordinary announcement that the country’s 9.2 million over-70s will be told to self-isolate ‘within the coming weeks’. The measures are likely to last for up to four months.
No 10 announced the plans to hold televised daily briefings after Mr Johnson (pictured at a press conference on Thursday) received criticism over an apparent lack of transparency in the fight against Covid-19
Shops including this one in south London have been stocking up on hand sanitiser and face masks as the UK braces itself for the carnage to accelerate
The Labour MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne, (pictured left) has been diagnosed with coronavirus. Ms Osborne is seen here with Chris Head on March 4. Mr Head started a petition on the Post Office Horizon Scandal. Before her election in 2019, Ms Osborne worked for Royal Mail
Customers carry huge bags of toilet roll as they leave the Costco wholesalers in Manchester yesterday
The UK death toll soared to 35 yesterday, with 14 deaths in just 24 hours. The youngest known fatality was last night named as 59-year-old former police officer Nick Matthews, from Nailsea in North Somerset.
Which MPs are self-isolating?
Kate Osborne – Jarrow
Nadia Whittome – Nottingham East
Andrea Jenkyns – Morley and Outwood
Chloe Smith – Norwich North
Alexander Stafford – Rother Valley
Olivia Blake – Sheffield Hallam
Dehenna Davison – Bishop Aukland
James Brokenshire – Hornchurch and Rainham
Lisa Cameron – East Kilbride
Alex Chalk – Cheltenham
William Wragg – Hazel Grove
Ruth Edwards – Rushcliffe
Anne-Marie Trevelyan - Berwick-upon-Tweed
Andrew Bridgen – North West Leicestershire
Charles Walker – Broxbourne
Edward Argar – Charnwood
Nadine Dorries – Mid Bedfordshire
The father-of-two was said to have underlying health issues. There are now 1,421 confirmed cases in the UK.
In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Hancock said the over-70s and those with underlying health conditions will soon be asked to remain at home.
He said the move would require a ‘national effort’ and a ‘massive community response’ and urged the healthy to help elderly neighbours.
The comments sparked confusion about how the measures could be implemented and who would care for those who do not have nearby family or friends.
But they led to a huge outpouring of community support, led by the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK Network, which is urging volunteers to form Facebook groups for their areas where people can share information on how to help those in need.
Many suggested dropping leaflets with contact details through the doors of neighbours so requests for food or medication can be made, or even just a friendly phone call.
Anna Vickerstaff, one of the movement’s co-ordinators, told the Daily Mail: ‘It has been incredible to see all of these groups spring up – and it goes to show that even in times of fear and anxiety we can come together and keep an eye out for the people in our neighbourhoods who need our help.’
With the prospect of months of further disruption, volunteers have been trying to make the lives of others easier.
Shop owner Zahid Iqbal, of Edinburgh, has distributed free coronavirus ‘survival kits’ – including a toilet roll, hand sanitiser and pocket tissues.
In Exeter, cabbies at I Taxi say they will take any over-65s trapped at home shopping for free.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said there was no reason to avoid visiting elderly relatives, but family members should keep at least a metre (3ft 3ins) apart and not offer kisses or hugs.
The youngest known fatality was last night named as 59-year-old former police officer Nick Matthews, from Nailsea in North Somerset
Many suggested dropping leaflets with contact details through the doors of neighbours so requests for food or medication can be made, or even just a friendly phone call. A man is pictured entering a coronavirus testing centre in London
She added: ‘Now is not the time to back off our older population, who need our love and support more than ever.’
Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said he was heartened by the country’s ‘impulse to help out in tough times’.
Mr Wilding said people could donate to foodbanks, which may come under pressure.
‘The simplest thing everyone can do is look out for their neighbours and offer help with shopping and other errands if they can’t get out of the house,’ he added.
Britain’s coronavirus crisis could last until Spring 2021 with up to 8MILLION people – or 15% of the population – hospitalised, secret NHS briefing reveals – as death toll leaps 14 in a day to 35
by Joe Middleton and Jemma Carr for MailOnline
Britain’s coronavirus crisis could last until Spring 2021 and see 7.9million people hospitalised, a secret briefing for senior NHS figures has revealed.
The document, seen by The Guardian newspaper, shows that health chiefs expect the virus to last for another 12 months, and details how it will impact key staff in the NHS, police and fire brigade.
It says: ‘As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation.’
It is understood the document was drawn up in recent days by Public Health England’s preparedness and response team.
Members of the public spotted today on the tube as the deaths from the pandemic increased today
Chaos this week saw people scrabbling to load up with loo rolls, long-life milk and pasta in a bid to prepare for the worst as the coronavirus death toll hit 21 yesterday while the number of infected soared past 1,000 in the UK alone. Pictured: Bare shelves in a Morrisons store in London
Dr Susan Hopkins, Deputy Director of PHE’s National Infection Service said: ‘PHE used reasonable worse-case scenario figures, to restate the importance for people with symptoms to stay at home, including health care workers in order to reduce the spread of the virus.’
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, and expert in epidemiology said: ’For the public to hear that it could last for 12 months, people are going to be really upset about that and pretty worried about that’
‘A year is entirely plausible. But that figure isn’t well appreciated or understood.’
The document also discloses that an estimated 500,000 of the 5 million people deemed vital because they work ‘in essential services and critical infrastructure’ will be off sick at any one time during a month-long peak of the epidemic.
This 5 million figure includes 1 million NHS staff and 1.5 million working in social care.
Heartbroken wife Mary Matthews (left) paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband Nick, 59, (right) who died from coronavirus in Bristol
It came as a total of 40,279 people have been tested across the UK and the latest update comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning said that the elderly may have to self isolate for up to four months.
38,907 tested negative against the disease and 1,372 tested positive.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning said that the elderly may have to self isolate for up to four months.
It comes after a heartbroken wife paid tribute to her ‘life partner and soul mate’ husband who has become the youngest coronavirus patient in Britain to die today.
Father-of-two Nick Matthews is believed to be the youngest coronavirus victim in Britain.
Mr Matthews – who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary
The 59-year-old - who had underlying health conditions – died in Bristol Royal Infirmary in the early hours of yesterday morning.
It was today revealed that coronavirus fatalities in the UK have increased by 14 overnight bringing the total death toll to 35.
Mr Matthews’ wife Mary wrote in a tribute on Facebook yesterday: ‘Today at 3am I lost my life partner and soul mate but most of all my best friend.
‘Charlotte, Ben and I are beyond proud to have had such a big character in our lives.
‘As a family we are still currently in isolation until the coronavirus test results come back.
‘Someone will post again when we have more information.
‘In the meantime, I know some of you would like to visit but please for you and your families safety, stay away until we get the all clear.’
Mr and Mrs Matthews had recently returned from a holiday in Fuerteventura, flying out on February 22 and returning on February 29.
In his last Facebook post, Mr Matthews described celebrating his birthday on the popular tourist hotspot.
Mr Matthews’ wife Mary penned a heart-breaking tribute on Facebook yesterday after her husband’s death
It was today revealed that coronavirus fatalities in the UK have increased by 14 overnight bringing the total death toll to 35. Pictured: Bristol Royal Infirmary where Mr Matthews died
The announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care (above) stated the new numbers for today
Nailsea People reported that Mr Matthews was diagnosed with pneumonia at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and was admitted to the intensive care unit after showing other signs for coronavirus.
Mrs Matthews told Nailsea People: ‘People who may have come into contact with either Nick or me during the past two weeks need to self-isolate and get advice.
‘Although he tested positive, until a post-mortem examination, we can’t say that was cause of death at the moment.
‘I don’t want to panic people, but I do want people to take extra precautions.’
Mr Matthews retired from his work as a police officer 10 years ago after suffering a heart attack.
Many paid tribute to him on Facebook, with one describing him as a ‘true Avon and Somerset Police legend’.
The number of cases of the killer bug increased by more than 200 to 1,372, the department of health and social care announced this afternoon.
A total of 40,279 people have been tested across the UK.
Britain’s over-70s told to stay at home for four months
Mass isolating of the elderly – even if they are not ill – will begin within the next 20 days as Boris Johnson ratchets up efforts to tackle the UK’s ballooning outbreak.
This morning health secretary Matt Hancock said the virus is ‘one of the biggest challenges we have seen in a generation’.
Although the drastic measures that have been implemented by the government have been drawn up to protect those most vulnerable to the killer COVID-19 infection, it brings serious concerns about the wellbeing of pensioners cooped-up for such a long time.
Regular social outings will have to be scrapped and pangs of loneliness could compound an already stressful isolation experience, psychologists have warned.
Instructing the over-70s to remain indoors forms part of a wider package of emergency powers due to be officially rolled out by Downing Street this week.
In a statement, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust said: ‘Sadly, we can confirm that a man who was being cared for at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and had tested positive for Covid-19, has died.
‘The patient who died was in his late-fifties and had underlying health conditions.
‘The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. We will not be commenting further and ask that everybody respects the family’s privacy.’
Councillor Don Davies, the leader of North Somerset Council, said the authority’s ‘heartfelt condolences’ were with the family and all that knew him.
‘I understand that the family have requested privacy at this difficult time and I ask that everyone respects their wishes,’ Cllr Davies said.
‘I am sure the news will be met with sadness in the wider community and it is important that everyone remains calm and follows the latest national advice on the steps needed to reduce the spread of infection.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government is ‘well behind the curve’ in its handling of the crisis and said it should be ‘at the very least giving a daily briefing’ about what is going on.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘There has to be much clearer guidance but also much better support.’
He added: ‘When football authorities and others take responsible decisions to cancel matches because they were worried about the crowd, they did that themselves – it was not the Government.’
Shoppers are faced with partially empty shelves at a supermarket in London as consumers worry about product shortages as a result of the coronavirus
When Mr Corbyn, who is 70, was asked if he would self-isolate, he said: ‘I am doing what everybody is being asked to do, which is washing my hands frequently and also making sure that the meetings I attend have people who are separated by some distance.
‘It is all the kind of practical measures that we all need to take.’
CHARITIES URGE FAMILIES TO CHECK UP ON ELDERLY RELATIVES
Charities have advised families to check elderly relatives have everything they need after Matt Hancock said over-70s will soon be asked to stay at home for four months.
The Alzheimer’s Society has not advised against visiting elderly relatives.
But it said anyone concerned should ring their loved ones to check they have handwash and hand sanitiser, are cleaning remote controls, door handles and taps regularly, and to see whether they need anyone to do a shopping trip for them.
Independent Age has also not advised against visits, but urged family members to ensure older relatives have all the supplies they need such as food and medication.
Age UK has said elderly people feeling well can still carry on as normal, and go out and meet people, providing basic hygiene measures such as washing hands regularly are observed.
Several care homes in the UK have suspended all visits in a bid to stop the virus spreading and Independent Age has told its volunteers home visits should now be conducted over the phone.
Mr Hancock said today that people can still visit elderly family members and neighbours as long as neither party is unwell.
Mr Hancock said ministers are yet to make a decision on whether to ban gatherings of more than 500 people in the rest of the UK, after Scotland said it would bring in restrictions from Monday.
It comes as eleven new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of known cases there to 45.
The Department of Health said people with mild symptoms – new persistent cough and/or fever – should stay at home and self-isolate for seven days and that they will not require testing.
In Wales there were 34 new cases today, pushing its total to 94. A huge jump from 60.
Public Health Wales said it was working with partners in the Welsh Government and the wider NHS in Wales now that the country had entered the ‘delay’ phase.
The new cases, by local authority area, are: two in Blaenau Gwent, four in Caerphilly, three in Carmarthenshire, one in Ceredigion, four in Swansea, three in Cardiff, one in Monmouthshire, three in Newport, two in Rhondda Cynon Taf, two in Torfaen and one in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The residential areas of eight of the new confirmed cases were still being confirmed on Sunday.
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, issued a video message describing how the Welsh Government had been ‘working hard to prepare for what is to come’.
‘We are working around the clock with experts here in Wales and around the United Kingdom to do everything we possibly can to protect you and your families,’ he said.
‘Every decision we make is based on the best expert public health advice.
‘It’s really important in facing the coronavirus that we take the right decisions at the right time.’
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: ‘We can confirm that 34 new cases have tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 94.
Mass isolating of the elderly – even if they are not ill – will begin within the next 20 days as Boris Johnson ratchets up efforts to tackle the UK’s outbreak
‘Public Health Wales is working within the phased approach to tackling the novel coronavirus outlined in the UK Coronavirus Action Plan – to contain, delay, research and mitigate.
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