Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Thursday that the UK is moving to the ‘delay’ phase of tackling coronavirus as the government ramps up efforts to bring the disease under control.
The prime minister is to chair a meeting of the emergency ‘Cobra’ committee where it is expected a decision will be made that effectively means the virus cannot be contained.
The government’s action plan has three separate stages – contain, delay and mitigate. On Monday, Johnson told reporters the UK will almost certainly move to the delay phase.
‘Social distancing’ measures, such as restricting public gatherings and more widespread advice to stay at home, could be brought in as part of the effort to tackle Covid-19.
The move follows the World Health Organisation criticising “alarming levels of inaction” as they declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Fears of public “fatigue” has delayed the start of restrictions designed to delay the spread, England’s chief medical officer said.
Professor Chris Whitty stressed the importance of timing because “anything we do, we have got to be able to sustain” throughout the peak of the outbreak.
On Wednesday evening, ministers said they have resolved to keep parliament open despite a health minister testing positive for the coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs he believed the Commons may have to function differently in some ways, but insisted it must continue to hold the government to account and legislate during a time of emergency.
Hancock also said health minister Nadine Dorries has done “exactly the right thing” in following official advice to self-isolate, with MPs wishing her well in her recovery after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
A cabinet minister was also reported to be self-isolating while awaiting a test result.