Boris Johnson says coronavirus is his top priority and tells Brits 'wash your hands'

BORIS Johnson has said the coronavirus was now the government's number one priority.

It comes after he was criticised for waiting until Monday to hold a crunch meeting on the outbreak – that claimed its first Brit victim today.

A tourist from the Diamond Princess cruise ship was the first Brit to die from the killer virus, also known as Covid-19.

The ship became a major epicentre for the outbreak which went on to sweep the globe, with 705 of the ship's 3,711 locked down passengers confirmed to have been infected.

In the UK, 19 people have now been diagnosed with the illness, after Wales reported its first patient and two more sufferers were identified in England.

Mr Johnson said he had met with the Health Secretary and chief medical officers to discuss the preparations.

He said: "On the issue of coronavirus, which obviously is a great concern to people, I just want to reassure everybody and say that the NHS is making every possible preparation.

"As you can imagine, the issue of coronavirus is something that is now the Government's top priority.

"I have just had a meeting with the chief medical officer and Secretary of State for Health talking about the preparations that we need to make."

The PM advised Brits to "wash our hands for twenty seconds or more with hot water and soap."

The PM visited Kettering General Hospital earlier today to see the pressures facing the health service first-hand as fears grow the coronavirus.

It comes amid mounting criticism at Mr Johnson's response to the outbreak.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of acting as a "part-time prime minister", saying he should be taking action immediately to take control of the situation.

Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey said: "People across the country are anxious and concerned about Coronavirus: they want to see leadership."

Meanwhile former chancellor George Osborne said Mr Johnson should be chairing a daily Cobra meeting, saying the public needed to know that ministers had the situation under control.

Downing Street said officials from the Department of Health, Public Health England and other relevant departments were meeting on a daily basis to discuss the crisis, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been chairing a weekly Cobra meeting.

Those will now be stepped up to take place twice weekly.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Britain has now reached "tipping point" in its battle to contain the deadly virus.

He urged Mr Johnson to "spell out" his plans to tackle the outbreak.

He said stopping the bug spreading to more than five per cent of Brits would save "hundreds of thousands of lives".

The latest criticism of Mr Johnson followed complaints he has failed to visit any of the most recently flood-hit areas of the country.


The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK climbed to 19 on Friday.

Here is a timeline of patients who have tested positive for the virus in the UK.

– January 31

The first cases are reported in the UK when two members of the same family – a University of York student and a relative – test positive for the virus.

They had recently travelled to the UK from China and were staying at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York when they fell ill.

They are taken to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary for treatment.

– February 6

A third person in the UK is diagnosed in Brighton and transferred to Guy's and St Thomas' in London.

It later emerges that the patient, businessman Steve Walsh, contracted the virus at a conference in Singapore.

On his way back to the UK, he stopped off for several days at a French ski chalet, where five Britons were subsequently infected with the virus.

– February 9

Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty says a fourth person has been diagnosed in the UK, who is believed to be a contact of Mr Walsh.

– February 10

Four more patients in England test positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight.

Those infected are all contacts of Mr Walsh and Public Health England (PHE) confirms two are healthcare workers.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the four newly diagnosed people had contracted the virus in France.

– February 13

A woman in London becomes the ninth person to test positive for the illness in the UK – the first confirmed case in the capital.

The patient, moved to a specialist NHS centre at Guy's and St Thomas' for treatment, contracted the virus in China, Prof Whitty says.

As with previously confirmed cases, officials work to identify people who had been in recent contact with the woman.

– February 23

Four Britons rescued from the Diamond Princess cruise ship test positive for the illness in the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 13.

They were among a group of 30 Britons and two Irish citizens who arrived at a quarantine block at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside a day earlier.

Prof Whitty said the virus was passed on when all four were on board the vessel.

– February 27

The first case of Covid-19 is diagnosed in Northern Ireland, while two more people tested positive across the rest of the UK – bringing the total number to 16.

The patient in Belfast had recently returned from northern Italy and had previously been in Dublin.

Another of the new cases, a parent at a Buxton primary school in Derbyshire, contracted the virus in Tenerife.

The third patient also contracted the virus in Italy, the worst affected country in Europe.

– February 28

The number of confirmed UK cases jumps to 19 after Wales reports its first patient and two more were identified in England.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton confirmed a man had been diagnosed with the virus after travelling back to Wales from Italy.

Tho two new cases identified in England had recently travelled back from Iran, Prof Whitty said.

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