Home Working To Be Key Plank Of Boris Johnson's ‘Battleplan’ To Combat Coronavirus

PM to stage press conference at No.10 alongside experts.

Millions of workers are set to be advised to work from home as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘battleplan’ to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

The strategy of ‘social distancing’, aimed at delaying the peak of the outbreak until the summer months, will be part of a raft of measures spelled out for the first time by the prime minister in a press conference in Downing Street.

Emergency legislation to ban public events like major sports matches and enforce ‘no-go zones’ in some areas will also be outlined.

Johnson will be accompanied by the UK’s leading officials dealing with the crisis, chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

In a separate move, chancellor Rishi Sunak also signalled he is preparing to use the coming Budget to support businesses hit by the spread of the virus.

The fresh government moves came as the number of identified UK cases of the disease rose to 39. There were four new cases reported on Monday, all of whom had travelled from Italy, the site of Europe’s biggest outbreak.

The new ‘battleplan’, also agreed by the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland executive, is expected to include emergency measures to draft in retired GPs and relaxation of rules around staff to pupil ratios in education and childcare settings.

Under the ‘social distancing’ approach, as the virus outbreak increases over the next couple of months, workers who can do their jobs from home will be advised to do so and others will be told to avoid all ‘unnecessary’ travel.

Volunteers are also to be urged to help out in NHS hospitals to cope with the increased workload.

New legislation - to possibly halt major public events and restrict movement of individuals - will only be introduced towards the end of the month, when advisers expect the Covid-19 outbreak to start to move into its next phase. The legislation will be ‘sunsetted’ to make clear it will expire once the crisis abates.

The PM, who on Monday chaired government’s emergency COBR committee on the coronavirus outbreak, will launch a major public information campaign later this week.

Boris Johnson meets with staff in a laboratory at the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale.
Boris Johnson meets with staff in a laboratory at the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale.
HENRY NICHOLLS via Getty Images

Other measures include every government department having a minister designated to deal with the crisis and a “war room” set up in the Cabinet Office, bringing together communications experts and scientists from across government and the NHS.

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.

“We have agreed a plan, which I will set out in detail today, so if the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable.”

The Treasury and Bank of England are also ready to step in to help firms and markets amid warnings that coronavirus could inflict the biggest shock to the global economy since the 2008 financial crisis.

Sunak said: “The whole of government is working closely together to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

“We understand that people across the country are worried, but I assure you that we are taking firm action to support your families, your businesses and the public services on which you rely.

“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.”


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