Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged everyone in the country to stop non-essential contact with others, work from home if possible and move away from mass gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
In a briefing to the UK from Downing Street on March 16, he set out the “drastic action” needed to combat the “fast growth” of the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of cases hits 1,543.
His speech comes as the number of cases in Nottinghamshire reaches 11, including the death of a man in his 90s who was being treated at the Queen’s Medical Centre.
Mr Johnson has now warned that without urgent action, the number of cases could double every five or six days.
A screen-grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre) speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London (Image: PA Video/PA Wire)
The Prime Minister’s speech in full
Mr Johnson said “if you or anyone in your household” had one of the two symptoms – a high temperature or continuous cough – “you should stay at home for 14 days”.
“That means that if possible you should not go out, even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise and in that case at a safe distance from others,” he said.
“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.”
Mr Johnson said that from Tuesday, March 17, the Government would no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers.
Mass gatherings are something “we are now moving emphatically away from”, he said, and urged that people should start working from home “where they possibly can”.
“You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues,” he added.
By the weekend, groups particularly vulnerable to the virus will be asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.
He said: “In a few days time, by this coming weekend it will be necessary to go further and to ensure that those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks.
“Again, the reason for doing this in the next few days rather than earlier or later is that this is going to be very disruptive for people who have such conditions.
“This advice about avoiding all social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.
“We want to ensure that this period of shielding, this period of maximum protection, coincides with the peak of the disease and it is now clear that the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than in others.
“And it looks as though London is now a few weeks ahead.
“Lastly, it remains true – as we said in the last few weeks – that this sort of transmissions of the disease at mass gatherings such as sporting events are relatively low, but obviously, logically, as we advise against unnecessary social contact of all kinds, it’s right that we should extend that advice to mass gatherings as well.
“And so we’ve also got to ensure that we have the critical workers we need that might otherwise be deployed for those gatherings, to deal with those emergencies.
“So from tomorrow we will no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers in the way that we normally do.”
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The Prime Minister said visits to care homes should also cease going forward, adding: “You can take it from what we have just said about avoiding all unnecessary contact for those particular groups – the really strong advice that we are giving to people to avoid unnecessary contact with the over-70s, those with particular health conditions – absolutely, we don’t want to see people unnecessarily visiting care homes.”
Following his speech, the Prime Minister said the Government already had “tremendous” powers to enforce its measures – but said that he hopes not to use them.
Speaking about the powers, he said: “Under an act of 1984, I think it is open to the Secretary of State for Health to ban handshaking if he wants to.
“But I think most people would accept that we are a mature and grown-up and liberal democracy where people understand very clearly the advice that is given to them.
“I think they also understand that what we are saying obviously helps the NHS and helps us all as individuals, but it helps the whole community as well.”