‘Highly likely’ that coronavirus will spread in ‘significant way’ across the UK

Downing Street has said it is "highly likely" coronavirus will spread in a "significant way" and officials are accelerating preparations to enter the delay phase to deal with the outbreak.

The Prime Minister was updated on the coronavirus by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser as he opened an official Cobra meeting.

This came as the total number of cases in the UK soared to 116.

The PM's official spokesman said: "We will continue to try to contain this virus. However it's now highly likely that the virus is going to spread in a significant way.

"Officials will therefore accelerate work on preparations for the delay phase of the Government's plan focusing on steps we can take to seek to delay the spread of the virus.

"This will include detailed work on the optimum time to introduce further measures."

Officials conceded it was inevitable that the UK would move beyond the containment phase and enter the delay phase to tackle the coronavirus.

The WHO says the coronavirus epidemic is not yet at pandemic level but there are 'very concerning signs'.

England has recorded 105 cases of coronavirus, in Wales there are now two confirmed cases, Scotland has six patients who have tested positive and in Northern Ireland, the number of cases is 3.

The first known case in South Yorkshire has also been confirmed.

PHE said it is contacting people who have been in contact with a presumed positive case in Rotherham.

Dr Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "Any risk to people in Rotherham remains low and there is no reason for anyone not to go about their normal business.

"PHE is directly contacting anyone who has been a close contact of the case."

Teresa Roche, director of public health at Rotherham Council, said: "We have robust infection control arrangements in place and strong partnership arrangements across the health and care system.

"We will continue to work closely with Public Health England who is leading on the response, as well as the NHS and all our health and care partners to prevent further spread of the virus."

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