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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson set to trigger next phase of battle against Covid-19
12 March 2020, 00:01
The Prime Minister is set to sign off on moving the UK into the delay phase for battling coronavirus during an emergency Government meeting on Thursday.
When Cobra meets on Thursday lunchtime, the Prime Minister is expected to advance preparations for combating the deadly virus by switching to tactics designed to delay its spread rather than contain the disease.
Earlier this afternoon, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic - the first since 2009.
Eight people have so far died in the UK, and more than 114,000 cases of the virus confirmed across the globe.
According to the Government's published action plan, the restrictions being considered would have "social costs".
These are thought to include urging employees to work from home where possible and even shutting down schools and cancelling events where masses of people will gather.
"Some of these will have social costs where the benefit of doing them to delay the peak will need to be considered against the social impact," said the Government's action plan.
Six MPs are now in self isolation after coming into contact with health minister Nadine Dorries, who has tested positive for coronavirus.
An unnamed Cabinet minister is reported to be among those in self-isolation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was with Ms Dorries shortly before she began showing symptoms is not being tested for the virus as he is not showing any symptoms, a spokesman said earlier.
But the coronavirus is beginning to tighten its grip on British politics, with the Lib dems scrapping their spring conference over fears it could spread further.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says Parliament will continue to operate as normal.
Mr Hancock said: "This afternoon the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global pandemic. I've spoken to the leader of the House and we have had discussions Mr Speaker, and we have resolved that we will keep Parliament open.
"Of course, in some ways this House may have to function differently, but the ability to hold the Government to account and to legislate are as vital in a time of emergency as in normal times - our democracy is the foundation of our way of life."
He added that the Government will continue to work closely with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, the Lord Speaker and the authorities in both Houses in the coming days and weeks.
Mr Hancock added: "As the leader of the House said in business questions last week the public will expect Parliament to sit and to get on with its job. Our approach will be guided by the best scientific evidence and medical advice and we will take all necessary measures to deal with this outbreak."
Italy, which has the highest number of infections outside China, has now shut all shops across the country except for pharmacies and supermarkets as the death toll hit 827, with over 12,400 confirmed cases.
Denmark become the second country to go into lockdown on Wednesday, with the government closing schools, universities for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has also said that employees will be encouraged to work from home.
Indoor events with 100 participants or more have also been cancelled.
So far, Denmark has had no deaths, but 442 people have been confirmed to have the disease.