UK moves onto next stage of fight against coronavirus as two more people die
The UK has moved onto the next stage of its response to the coronavirus outbreak as experts and politicians accepted it could no longer be contained.
The shift, which could see restrictions imposed in an effort to delay the spread of the disease, was confirmed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee chaired by Boris Johnson.
The move came as two more deaths were announced in British hospitals and the number of people who had tested positive for coronavirus reached almost 600.
Ten people have now died in the UK after testing positive for Covid-19 and 596 people are known to have contracted the virus.
The latest deaths were of an 89-year-old at Charing Cross Hospital in London and a woman in her sixties at Queen’s Hospital in Romford. Both had underlying health conditions.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The decision has been taken that we have now moved from a contain phase into the delay phase where the objective is to seek to slow down the spread of the virus, to reduce the numbers who will be infected at the peak, the number infected at any one time.”
From Friday, anyone with symptoms indicative of coronavirus should self-isolate for seven days, she said.
From Monday, mass gatherings in Scotland are set to be restricted as Ms Sturgeon said it is “inappropriate that we continue as normal”.
She acknowledged the move, which will apply to some events involving crowds of 500 or more, will “not have a significant impact on the spread of the virus” but it will ease pressure on frontline emergency services.
It comes as Ireland announced the closure of schools and tourist attractions until the end of the month.
Irish premier Leo Varadkar said schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close until March 29 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which is now regarded as a global pandemic.
Museums, galleries and other tourist destinations will also close as a result of the action.
Mr Varadkar said: “I know that some of this is coming as a real shock and it is going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives.
“I know that I am asking people to make enormous sacrifices. We’re doing it for each other.”
The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Republic stands at 43 and there has been one death.