Boris Johnson To Move UK From 'Contain' To 'Delay' Phase Of Coronavirus Action Plan

Decision is likely to mean strict 'social distancing' measures.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Thursday that the UK is moving to the ‘delay’ phase of tackling coronavirus as the government ramps up efforts to bring the disease under control.

The prime minister is to chair a meeting of the emergency ‘Cobra’ committee where it is expected a decision will be made that effectively means the virus cannot be contained.

The government’s action plan has three separate stages – contain, delay and mitigate. On Monday, Johnson told reporters the UK will almost certainly move to the delay phase.

‘Social distancing’ measures, such as restricting public gatherings and more widespread advice to stay at home, could be brought in as part of the effort to tackle Covid-19.

The move follows the World Health Organisation criticising “alarming levels of inaction” as they declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Eight people with Covid-19 were confirmed to have died in the UK, while the total number of positive cases rose to 460.

Fears of public “fatigue” has delayed the start of restrictions designed to delay the spread, England’s chief medical officer said.

Professor Chris Whitty stressed the importance of timing because “anything we do, we have got to be able to sustain” throughout the peak of the outbreak.

On Wednesday evening, ministers said they have resolved to keep parliament open despite a health minister testing positive for the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs he believed the Commons may have to function differently in some ways, but insisted it must continue to hold the government to account and legislate during a time of emergency.

Hancock also said health minister Nadine Dorries has done “exactly the right thing” in following official advice to self-isolate, with MPs wishing her well in her recovery after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

A cabinet minister was also reported to be self-isolating while awaiting a test result.

<strong>Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference about coronavirus in 10 Downing Street in London.</strong>
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference about coronavirus in 10 Downing Street in London.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday that the number of cases outside China has increased 13-fold in the past two weeks, and the number of affected countries has tripled.

He said individual countries could still change the course of the virus through their actions, but said the agency expected the number of deaths and affected countries to climb higher.

But Dr Tedros advised that despite the change in the language, WHO is still advising countries to remain in the containment phase.

Also on Wednesday, the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust said a patient in their 70s being treated for underlying health conditions had died after testing positive for Covid-19.

And the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, said an elderly patient being treated for a number of serious underlying health conditions had also died.

It came as 53-year-old British woman was reported to have died from Covid-19 in Indonesia.

She was ill with other health conditions, including diabetes and lung disease, the Indonesian government said.

In other developments:

– A female patient with underlying health conditions became the first death linked to coronavirus in the Republic of Ireland

– England’s cricketers have been instructed not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their test tour of Sri Lanka, while Manchester City’s Premier League clash with Arsenal has been postponed as a “precautionary measure” over coronavirus fears

– Public Health England defended its decision not to test everyone with symptoms, saying it must focus on those at highest risk. The NHS intends to ramp up testing facilities

In Wednesday’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans for the health service in his Budget and pledged security and support for those who are sick and unable to work due to the spread of Covid-19.