Johnson to consider stricter measures to tackle coronavirus in Cobra meeting

Boris Johnson will discuss strengthening coronavirus-tackling measures with officials and could make a decision on shielding elderly citizens, banning mass gatherings and household isolation.

The Prime Minister will chair an emergency meeting of the Cobra committee on Monday afternoon before addressing the first of the daily press conferences being planned to update the public on Covid-19.

As the UK death toll reached 35 on Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that over-70s could be told to stay home for up to four months within the “coming weeks”.

Mr Johnson was expected to discuss the proposal, as well as banning mass gatherings and isolating entire households if one member shows symptoms, during the emergency meeting.

Other plans being considered include handing police powers to detain people with the virus who are not following the advice to protect the wider community by self-isolating.

The PM will also on Monday ask British manufacturers including the Unipart Group to support the production of essential medical equipment for the NHS, such as ventilators which are desperately in need.

And he will speak with all G7 leaders including US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss a co-ordinated global response to the pandemic.

Amid criticism over a lack of transparency, Downing Street announced plans to hold daily televised press conferences so either the PM or a senior minister can face scrutiny.

Mr Johnson will be joined by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on Monday.

Coronavirus
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (right) (PA)

Some in the scientific community have criticised the Government for taking a slower and more relaxed response to the pandemic than other countries.

But restrictive measures could be announced during the conference.

The Department of Health and Social Care said on Sunday that 14 more patients have died after testing positive for the virus, bringing the UK-wide total to 35.

The number of confirmed positive tests reached 1,372, but the true figure of people in the UK with the disease is likely to be far higher.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

A Public Health England (PHE) briefing, reported by the Guardian, warned health chiefs that the epidemic in the UK could last until spring next year and could lead up to 7.9 million people being hospitalised.

Dr Susan Hopkins, PHE’s national infection service deputy director, said: “PHE used reasonable worse-case scenario figures, to restate the importance for people with symptoms to stay at home, including health care workers in order to reduce the spread of the virus.”

The document’s estimate that 15% of the nation could be hospitalised was understood to have been extrapolated from data reported by other nations.

A Bill detailing emergency powers to deal with the outbreak is expected to be published on Thursday.

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