The prime minister has announced the UK has moved to phase two ‘delay’ in its fight against the coronavirus, calling the outbreak “the worst public health crisis for a generation.”
Boris Johnson warned the disease will “spread further” and “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
The latest figures show 596 confirmed cases in the UK – an increase of 140 since yesterday – but the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said as many as 10,000 people could be infected around the country.
PM – ‘It is going to spread further’
Testing will now focus hospital patients as part of new measures announced today (Thursday) following an emergency Cobra meeting about the health crisis.
The PM said: “We have all got to be clear, this is the the worst public health crisis for a generation. Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that is not right. Due to the lack of immunity this disease is more dangerous.
“It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
PM – New measures may “cause severe disruption” for many months
UK schools will remain open as, Johnson said: “The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good at this time – but of course we are keeping this under review and this again may change as the disease spreads.”
The PM urged anyone with new symptoms of cough or high temperature to remain at home to “help slow the spread of the disease” while warning the new measures may “cause severe disruption” for many months.
Other phase two ‘delay’ measures in place from tomorrow (Friday) says schools should not take trips abroad, and elderly people or those with pre-exisiting health conditions should avoid cruises.
Further measures will be introduced as the number of infections rises and could see bans on large gatherings, public transport restrictions and troops supporting emergency services.
FTSE 100’s worst day since 1987
The move to phase two of the UK’s four-phase battle plan to combat the coronavirus coincided with the FTSE 100’s worst day since 1987’s Black Monday stock market crash.
The share index suffered its biggest one-day fall in 33 years, dropping 10.8% to close at 5237.38, the losses wiping £160.4billion off the market value in London.
Share indexes around the world experienced similar losses as investors responded to yesterday’s designation of the coronavirus as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), followed by Donald Trump’s announcement of a travel ban to the US.
The FTSE 250 crashed 9.35% to 15717.42, with oil falling a further 8% leaving Brent crude at less than $33 a barrel, compounding recent heavy losses.