Employees may be encouraged to work from home if coronavirus continues to spread, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will confirm.
Mr Johnson is to set out the Government’s action plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus. He will host a press conference in Downing Street to launch the plan, alongside the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
It comes after four new UK cases, including people from Hertfordshire, south Devon and Kent, were confirmed. All had travelled recently to Italy, which is experiencing the biggest outbreak in Europe.
Mr Johnson said: “It is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, which is why we’re making every possible preparation.”
Measures in the plan include:
The option, should the virus spread, to encourage more home working and discourage unnecessary travel as part of a ‘social distancing’ strategy that could delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year, potentially helping combat the virus in warmer weather conditions
Looking at emergency registration of health professionals who have retired, the introduction of emergency indemnity coverage for health care workers to provide care or diagnostic services and relaxation of rules around staff to pupil ratios in education and childcare settings
Every government department having a designated Ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus, for instance on schools or businesses
A war room set up in the Cabinet Office, bringing together communications experts and scientists from across government and the NHS to roll out the public information campaign
Coronavirus being a standing item on the weekly Cabinet agenda, with the PM continuing to oversee the Government approach
Later in the week, a major public information campaign will be launched setting out clear steps the public can take to limit the spread of the virus, including washing their hands regularly with soap and water.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale, north London
New laws published in the coming weeks to ensure Government has all the necessary powers to prepare for and tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday, the Prime Minister brought together the Government’s emergency COBR committee on the coronavirus outbreak, where attendees discussed, finalised and signed off the battle plan.
He said: “If the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable.
“But we can all continue to do our bit to fight this virus – by washing our hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged that the NHS and Britain’s scientists will receive the funding they need in the battle against coronavirus.
And he said he was ready to provide help to support the economy, including in next month’s Budget statement.
Stock markets in the US, UK and elsewhere have already suffered major downturns. Coronavirus could have a major impact on the UK economy if it leads to the closure of offices and factories, as has happened in China.
Mr Sunak said: “We are well prepared for this global threat and, as the wider economic picture becomes clearer, we stand ready to announce further support where needed.”
The Chancellor has tasked officials to work up further measures to support the public health response, businesses and the economy as needed.
One of the cases diagnosed on Monday was a worker at the North East London NHS Foundation Trust offices at Vinters Business Park near Maidstone in Kent.
Another is somebody from a secondary school in Torbay.
Some 13 new patients in the UK were diagnosed on Sunday, including a member of staff at Wimbledon College and a clinician at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood, Middlesex, which is part of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.
Three of the new cases in England were linked to a man from Surrey, who was infected within the UK.
Globally, around 86,000 people have been infected, with more than 3,000 deaths.