Businesses and public services are braced for huge staff shortages as medical chiefs plan to order anyone with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate for a week.
The proposal comes as two more Brits died from the bug, bringing the death toll to five. And the number of cases rose from 273 to 319 today.
Both the latest victims were in their 70s with underlying health conditions.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “We are now close to the time, probably within the next 10 to 14 days, when we should move to a situation where everybody with even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self-isolating for a period of seven days.
“We will be having to ask members of the public to do different things than they would normally do. There is a risk if we go too early people will understandably get fatigued and it will be difficult to sustain this over time.”
Common symptoms are fever, fatigue and dry cough. Downing Street said from today every hospital patient with respiratory tract infections or pneumonia will be tested for Covid-19.
Boris Johnson added: “There is no hiding from the fact that the coronavirus outbreak will present challenges. But if we continue to look out for one another, to pull together in a united and national effort, I have no doubt that we can and will rise to that challenge.
“We are preparing actions to slow the spread of this disease in order to reduce the strain it places on the NHS.”
The PM said the UK remains in the “containment” phase of tackling the spread but will move onto “delay” once the outbreak becomes widespread. That could mean introducing measures such as social distancing.
A man died at Wolverhampton from coronavirus and a patient, with a number of significant and long-term health conditions, passed away at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in South London.
The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said: “A patient in their 70s being treated for underlying health conditions has died. The patient had tested positive for Covid-19.”
Two further cases have been confirmed in the city. Herefordshire had its first case as did the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. There were two more in Cornwall.
Plymouth crown court shut down after a coronavirus scare. A man due to go on trial entered the dock and was advised to call 111, self isolate and speak to his GP.
It is believed to be the first court to be shut down over the crisis.
There were also confirmed cases at a Transport for London office, Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital and Oxford University, where a second student tested positive.
Numbers of cases are expected to double every two to three days.
Experts believe between 50% and 80% of the population will contract Covid-19 and around 100,000 people will die.
Universal credit claimants who have to self-isolate if they contract Covid-19 will not be sanctioned, a minister confirmed.
Public Health England are to roll out enhanced monitoring of flights from all parts of Italy from Wednesday. The country has the highest number of confirmed cases outside China at 7,375, with 366 deaths.
Tens of thousands of Brits have had their holiday plans there thrown into chaos.
All St Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland next Tuesday are to be cancelled in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the Government will repatriate more than 140 UK tourists on board Grand Princess. The cruise liner has been blocked from California ports since Thursday after passengers tested positive for coronavirus.
It finally docked at Oakland last night and guests were being taken to healthcare facilities or quarantine stations.
Mr Hancock said: “The US are planning for a flight to leave tomorrow.”
Research in China, the epicentre of the global outbreak, found being older, showing signs of sepsis and having blood clots are key factors associated with a higher risk of death with coronavirus.
Numbers of new infections are now falling in the country thanks to measures such as locking down entire cities.
Coronavirus questions answered
Q: Will my pension be affected?
A: It depends what type of pension you’re paying into, how far off retirement you are, or if you have already retired.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer you are from retiring, the less reason there is to be concerned.
Q: I’ve got a private pension and am a few months off retiring?
A: The closer you get to retiring, the more of your pot your pension provider will shift from equities (shares) into other assets, such as cash. Doing so will limit the impact of the slump should you opt for an annuity – an insurance policy that pays out in retirement.
Q: I’m retired and I opted for a drawdown pension. How am I affected?
A: Drawdowns allow you to flexibly take cash out of your pension pot as and when you want.
But your funds remain invested and, therefore, at the mercy of stock markets, so can go down as well as up.
Q: I’m in a defined benefit pension, including a final salary scheme, will I be affected?
A: Unlikely. While the share slump could well hit the fund you’re in, it’s the responsibility of the firm that’s behind it. As long as the firm – or “sponsor” – is doing OK, you’ll be fine.
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