Boris Johnson
  • The UK government is planning draconian measures to deal with an impending coronavirus outbreak.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled plans to potentially create no-go zones and bans on mass public gatherings in order to deal with the crisis.
  • The public could be instructed to work at home for at least three months in order to prevent further spread of the virus.
  • The government estimated that nearly 20% of British employees could be off work at one time.
  • Officials expect the virus to spread rapidly across the country within weeks.
  • The government's reasonable worst case scenario is that 1% of people who contract the virus will die.
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The UK government is preparing to create no-go zones and ban mass public gathering as it gets ready for a major outbreak of coronavirus within weeks which could affect up to a fifth of the working-age population.

Boris Johnson will on Tuesday use a press conference to outline his government's plan for dealing with the crisis, warning that "it is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks."

Measures being considered by officials include:

  • The creation of no-go zones around areas of infection.
  • Bans on large-scale gatherings such as sports events.
  • Instructing the public to work from home where possible for at least 12 weeks.
  • Enlisting retired medical staff to cope with the crisis.
  • Instructing police forces to concentrate only on serious crime and disorder.

The UK's Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty said on Tuesday morning that the current "reasonable" worst case scenario was that one per cent of people who contracted the virus would die.

However, Witty stressed that this was a worst case scenario, and that the actual number would be significantly lower.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later said that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK had risen to 51.

The UK government's action plan has four stages: contain, delay, research, and mitigate. The UK is currently in stage one.

However, if the situation escalates and forces the UK government to move to "delay," it will advise people to work from home and avoid unnecessary travel as part of a population distancing strategy, government officials said on Tuesday.

The action plan, released by the UK government, states that: "Action that would be considered could include population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings) to slow the spread of disease throughout the population."

Some of Britain's European neighbours have already taken similar steps. France cancelled public gatherings of over 5,000 at the weekend, forcing organisers of the Paris half-marathon to cancel the event.

Britain's chief football authorities have also reportedly held talks about fixtures potentially taking place behind closed doors in order to reduce large public gatherings.

The officials added that in the "mitigation" stage, the NHS would likely have to prioritise emergency care and postpone non-urgent treatment. Similarly, a strain on police numbers would force them to prioritise serious crimes.

The government on Monday evening confirmed that if Britain's coronavirus situation escalated, it would seek to bolster the National Health Service by asking retired health professionals to be on duty in hospitals.

The increased demand for medicine in this scenario would force hospitals to use existing stockpiles.

Government officials said that they expected up to 20% of British employees to be absent from work when the virus is at its peak.

Britain's supermarkets have drawn up contingency plans for responding to panic-buying, The Guardian newspaper reports. These will limit the variety of foods available to consumers and instead focus on basic items.

The disease has gripped almost every country in Western Europe, with the European Parliament planning to cancel over 300 events over the next few weeks. There have been over 3,000 deaths worldwide as a result of the disease.

All Brits are advised to regularly wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds.

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