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Coronavirus: 12 new UK cases as businesses and schools close

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Twelve more coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the UK today, just moments after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the Government’s ‘battle plan’ to tackle a major outbreak of the killer infection on British soil. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the number of COVID-19 cases had jumped overnight to 51 in the House of Commons, warning the situation facing the UK is ‘increasingly serious’ as fears grow of a crisis.

Mr Johnson today published the Government’s action plan, as he warned a major outbreak in Britain is now ‘highly likely’. It could see police ignore low-level crime if coronavirus takes hold in the UK. 

Troops could be deployed on the streets, infected patients not suffering could be sent home from hospital, and non-urgent NHS operations could be cancelled to free up space in overwhelmed hospitals. 

It comes after a travel agent in Norbiton, south London, was today shut after an employee tested positive for the deadly infection, which has infected more than 92,000 people in almost 80 countries.

Elsewhere, London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama was closed after a teacher tested positive for the killer coronavirus and a secondary school in the Wirral also shut after a parent was infected.   

Coronavirus fears have now gripped Britain, with shelves of leading supermarkets emptying at pace and staples being rationed amid warnings of ‘food riots’ if the crisis worsens as predicted. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a picture of him washing his hands to his Instagram page today, with the caption: 'I fully understand the public’s concerns about the global spread of coronavirus, and it is likely to become more significant in the coming weeks'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a picture of him washing his hands to his Instagram page today, with the caption: 'I fully understand the public’s concerns about the global spread of coronavirus, and it is likely to become more significant in the coming weeks'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the cases in the Commons, warning the situation facing the country is 'increasingly serious'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the cases in the Commons, warning the situation facing the country is 'increasingly serious'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) posted a picture of him washing his hands to his Instagram page today, with the caption: ‘I fully understand the public’s concerns about the global spread of coronavirus, and it is likely to become more significant in the coming weeks.’ Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) confirmed the new cases in the Commons, warning the situation facing the country is ‘increasingly serious’

The prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, located in the heart of London, will be closed for up to 14 days as a precaution

The prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, located in the heart of London, will be closed for up to 14 days as a precaution

The prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, located in the heart of London, will be closed for up to 14 days as a precaution

TROOPS ON THE STREET AND POLICE IGNORING LOW-LEVEL CRIME: DRAMATIC CORONAVIRUS BATTLE PLAN IS UNVEILED

  • If police lose ‘significant staff’ numbers to illness, they would ‘concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order’.
  • In a ‘stretching scenario’, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks.
  • The UK has stockpiles of medicines for the NHS, plus protective clothing and equipment for medical staff.
  • The public can help delay the spread of the virus by washing hands with soap regularly, not spreading misinformation and relying on trusted sources.
  • The Ministry of Defence will provide support as needed, including to essential services.
  • If the virus takes hold, social distancing strategies could include school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings and closing other educational settings.
  • Non-urgent operations and other procedures could be cancelled, and hospital discharges monitored to free-up beds, with appropriate care in people’s homes.
  • Hospital worker shifts could be altered and leavers or retirees called ‘back to duty’.
  • Measures exist to help businesses with short-term cash flow problems.

Mr Hancock did not give any details about the cases and the Department of Health said it had no information to add until its 2pm update.

The Health and Social Care Secretary told MPs: ‘The situation facing the country is increasingly serious. Globally and at home the number of cases continues to rise. 

‘As of 9am today, there were 51 confirmed cases in the UK and it’s becoming more likely that we’ll see widespread transmission here in this country.’

Mr Hancock, who conceded the UK might have to cancel the London Marathon next month, added: ‘Our approach is to plan for the worst and work for the best.’

In other key developments today:

  • The Treasury is preparing to find billions of pounds in next week’s budget to help firms cope with the financial fallout;
  • Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the international economic response to coronavirus will be ‘powerful and timely’, and played down fears there will be a worse hit than the 2008 credit crunch;
  • BA, EasyJet and Ryanair cancelled hundreds of flights, ruining the plans of thousands of travellers;
  • Global economic growth could be slashed in half, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development;
  • The public were urged to clean their smartphone screens with alcohol wipes twice a day to help prevent the spread;
  • At least 11 more schools closed after positive coronavirus tests or scares – despite Government advice to shut only on the orders of health officials;
  • The NHS 111 helpline reported it was receiving a 70 per cent increase in calls compared with last year;
  • Stores reported seeing a surge in panic buying and experts warned of food riots in a worst-case scenario;
  • As many as five million workers could be left without sick pay if they are forced to stay home;
  • The Health Secretary said the Government had powers to compel patients to self-isolate if they refused to;
  • The World Health Organisation warned that the situation was now ‘uncharted territory’;
  • Buckingham Place said an investiture today would go ahead and there were no plans to alter royal itineraries;
  • City firms banned ‘hot desking’ and large meetings of more than 25 staff. 

It comes as online travel agent Travel Republic today closed its office in London after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus.

The company said its premises on London Road in Norbiton, south London, would be shut to staff while they undergo a deep clean.

Almost 91,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded across the world. At least 3,100 people are known to have died

PANIC-BUYING BRITS STRIP SUPERMARKET SHELVES OF PASTA, COUSCOUS AND WATER

The shelves of British supermarkets are emptying at pace and staples are being rationed as coronavirus stockpiling spiralled out of control today amid warnings of ‘food riots’ if the crisis worsens.

Shortages previously limited to anti-bacterial hand gel and hand soap have spread to cupboard items such as rice, pasta, couscous, Pot Noodles, bottled water, toilet roll and pet food – as well as chilled items including milk, butter and yoghurt.

Pharmacy shelves are also emptying of paracetamol, ibuprofen and immune-system boosting tablets such as Berocca as people prepare to fight off the flu-like illness that has claimed hundreds of lives worldwide.

Facebook and Twitter is packed with photographs of empty shelves from major supermarkets across the UK where shoppers appear to have thrown empty boxes into the aisles in the mad scramble for items.

MailOnline readers have also shared pictures of their well-stocked larders as people prepare for weeks in isolation.

One reader said: ‘I have been trying for THREE days to buy pasta but I cannot see any as most shops have run out of pasta and pasta sauce’.

The scramble for food has also revealed what Britons do not consider essentials despite a China-style shutdown of communities predicted – including some flavours of crisps and confectionary including Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Londoner Jasia Warren tweeted: ‘Interesting to see what people are stockpiling in my local supermarket. Bare shelves for rice, pasta, handwash, tissues and loo roll. Also interesting to see what people are not stockpiling: polenta, crumpets and get well cards. Their loss is my gain. #stockpiling’.

It added that the patient was receiving medical attention and all staff have been told to ring NHS 111 if they are concerned or feel unwell. 

A Department of Health spokesperson refused to confirm whether the patient was among the new cases announced in the Commons.   

Meanwhile, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama cancelled all of its scheduled events until 11 March due to a teacher having the virus.

The unidentified man had come into contact with a ‘limited number’ of students last week, the school admitted in an email to staff and students.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama didn’t release any more information about the male teacher – but he is thought to teach music.

He was whisked off for treatment at London’s Royal Free Hospital, a specialist NHS centre for infectious diseases. 

In an email sent to staff and students, the school – ranked as one of the world’s best performing arts institutes – said he is ‘recovering well’. 

According to The Guardian, the note added: ‘He was present and teaching in one of the ancillary school buildings on one day last week. 

‘He came into contact with a limited number of students and we are working closely with those students to ensure that they receive urgent appropriate advice.’

The school urged any staff and students who show any coronavirus symptoms, such as a fever or cough, to ring NHS111 and seek medical advice. 

It added: ‘All meetings, performances, workshops, masterclasses and any other on-site school engagements in the next 14 days should be cancelled. 

‘Staff are encouraged to work remotely during this period and if they are in any doubt of how to do so should contact their line manager.’ 

It comes after Willow Bank Junior School and Willow Bank Infant School in Woodley, Berkshire, both closed yesterday because of coronavirus.

A female staff member at the infant school tested positive after catching the illness while on holiday in northern Italy.

Hilbre High School in West Kirkby, Merseyside, announced that it had closed today because a parent of a pupil had caught the coronavirus. Its decision was announced n a statement on the school's website

Hilbre High School in West Kirkby, Merseyside, announced that it had closed today because a parent of a pupil had caught the coronavirus. Its decision was announced n a statement on the school's website

Hilbre High School in West Kirkby, Merseyside, announced that it had closed today because a parent of a pupil had caught the coronavirus. Its decision was announced n a statement on the school’s website

Wimbledon College, in south-west London, shut its doors yesterday because of the coronavirus

St Mary's Church of England Primary School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday. It is closed for deep cleaning until Wednesday

St Mary's Church of England Primary School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday. It is closed for deep cleaning until Wednesday

St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday. It is closed for deep cleaning until Wednesday

At a press conference today, Mr Johnson said the government would take all 'necessary and reasonable steps' to curb the impact of coronavirus

At a press conference today, Mr Johnson said the government would take all 'necessary and reasonable steps' to curb the impact of coronavirus

At a press conference today, Mr Johnson said the government would take all ‘necessary and reasonable steps’ to curb the impact of coronavirus

BORIS JOHNSON SAYS HE WILL KEEP SHAKING HANDS DESPITE CORONAVIRUS FEARS 

Boris Johnson today said he will keep shaking hands with dignitaries and members of the public despite fears over coronavirus.

At a press conference in No10, the Prime Minister joked that he needed to shake a lot of hands.

And he laughed off suggestions over whether he would risk a diplomatic incident by refusing to carry out the greeting with foreign leaders.

‘I continue to shake hands,’ he said. ‘I think the scientific evidence is… our judgement is washing your hands is the crucial thing.’

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock voiced a similar stance.

‘It’s not a significant thing,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘So as long as you wash your hands after… then that’s fine.’

In an email, the schools told parents they would be shut for ‘some days’ to allow for a deep clean to be carried out on the premises. 

St Mary’s Primary School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, also closed after a member of staff there was confirmed to have the virus after a trip to Italy.

Wimbledon College, in south-west London, shut its doors yesterday because of the coronavirus.  

In a letter to parents the headmaster wrote that a member of staff caught the virus while on a trip to northern Italy.

Several staff members were asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with the teacher, forcing the school to shut because of ‘low staffing numbers’.  

The Ridgeway School in Farnham, Surrey, which teaches children with severe learning difficulties, has closed for deep cleaning.

Three cases have been diagnosed in Surrey already and a Ridgeway member of staff had been in contact with a confirmed patient.

In a letter to parents the headteacher said it was shut because of the compromised immune system ‘many of’ the school’s children have.

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Torbay yesterday confirmed a student tested positive for COVID-19. No other details are known.

Shelves in this London Tesco is empty of pasta, pasta sauces, rice and other staples but crisps and chocolate oranges appear to have been left

Shelves in this London Tesco is empty of pasta, pasta sauces, rice and other staples but crisps and chocolate oranges appear to have been left

Shelves in this London Tesco is empty of pasta, pasta sauces, rice and other staples but crisps and chocolate oranges appear to have been left

This London Sainsbury's is running out of germ-busting disinfectant, bleach and anti-bacterial wipes

This London Sainsbury's is running out of germ-busting disinfectant, bleach and anti-bacterial wipes

This London Sainsbury’s is running out of germ-busting disinfectant, bleach and anti-bacterial wipes 

Water is also selling out in supermarkets including this Asda in the capital despite coronavirus posing little threat to the country's water supply

Water is also selling out in supermarkets including this Asda in the capital despite coronavirus posing little threat to the country's water supply

Water is also selling out in supermarkets including this Asda in the capital despite coronavirus posing little threat to the country’s water supply

AVOID BANK NOTES, KISSING AND HOT-DESKING

Shoppers should pay using contactless cards to avoid catching the coronavirus from a dirty banknote, health experts have said.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said contactless cards could ‘reduce the risk of transmission’.

Notes change hands hundreds or even thousands of times during circulation and can pick up all manner of dirt and bugs as they’re passed around.

Experts say the coronavirus could latch onto currency in the same way that it is able to live on hard surfaces like doorknobs, handrails and toilet handles.

So using contactless cards – which mean someone only has to touch their own card, which is never handled by anyone else – could protect them from it spreading.

The advice comes as employers have reportedly started to ban hot-desking, when people share desks; and, in France, ministers have told people to stop doing ‘la bise’, the traditional cheek-kiss greeting.

Hundreds of teachers across the country were sent on ski trips to northern Italy, the centre of Europe’s coronavirus crisis, over half-term.

But thousands of travellers came home from northern Italy before the Government introduced updated guidance, raising fears it would spread to the UK.

The Government told holidaymakers and business travellers returning from Italy to self-isolate if they have tell-tale symptoms.   

And anyone who went to 11 towns locked down to contain the outbreak were told to quarantine themselves, even if they had no symptoms.

But hundreds of teachers who went to affected regions went into school before the guidance was updated, raising fears for thousands of pupils and staff.  

Teachers are also known to be at risk because they come into contact with children, who are known to be more susceptible to getting sick.

Scientists say because youngsters mingle with lots of strangers they are exposed to bacteria and viruses they’ve never seen before. 

Education sources warned last night that students could be forced to sit their exams in the summer holidays, if the crisis in the UK worsens.

But their grades could be inflated to compensate for missed lesson time, according to one teacher trying to answer parents’ creeping concerns. 

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Torbay confirmed a student tested positive for COVID-19, while the second case in Devon is a member of the same family. No other details are known

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Torbay confirmed a student tested positive for COVID-19, while the second case in Devon is a member of the same family. No other details are known

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Torbay confirmed a student tested positive for COVID-19, while the second case in Devon is a member of the same family. No other details are known

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Devon has closed after a pupil and one of their relatives were diagnosed with the virus

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Devon has closed after a pupil and one of their relatives were diagnosed with the virus

Churston Ferrers Grammar School in Devon has closed after a pupil and one of their relatives were diagnosed with the virus

STUDENTS COULD BE FORCED TO SIT THEIR EXAMS IN THE SUMMER IF OUTBREAK WORSENS 

Education sources warned last night that students could be forced to sit their exams in the summer holidays, if the crisis in the UK worsens.

But their grades could be inflated to compensate for missed lesson time, according to one teacher trying to answer parents’ creeping concerns. 

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty forecast a worst-case scenario in which schools would be closed for ‘probably more than two months’.  

As the summer exam season looms, parents are worried about the knock-on effect of future closures.  

Exam regulator Ofqual has told institutions to draw up contingency plans to prepare for such closures, but have not yet advised on specific measures. 

Calvin Robinson, who teaches at Watford Grammar, believes exams could be pushed back to cope with school closures.

And he added teachers and pupils would likely have to come in during the summer holidays to sit papers and invigilate.

In the event of schools shutting, he told MailOnline: ‘I think we will have to postpone exams. 

‘We can’t purely base it on previous coursework, because students weren’t warned in advance. 

Many parents fear closures would jeopardise their child’s grades in comparison to institutions which remained open.

Mr Robinson predicted that, if there were a slump in grades owing to missed lessons in affected schools, these could be inflated.

The exam regulator also called for affected students to be given special dispensation in this summer’s exams 

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran MP echoed the view and said exam boards should take into account illnesses. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Exam season is an extremely stressful time for pupils and it is crucial that schools take a compassionate approach. 

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty forecast a worst-case scenario in which schools would be closed for ‘probably more than two months’.  

As the summer exam season looms, parents are worried about the knock-on effect of future closures.  

Exam regulator Ofqual has told institutions to draw up contingency plans to prepare for such closures, but have not yet advised on specific measures. 

Calvin Robinson, who teaches at Watford Grammar, believes exams could be pushed back to cope with school closures.

And he added teachers and pupils would likely have to come in during the summer holidays to sit papers and invigilate.

In the event of schools shutting, he told MailOnline: ‘I think we will have to postpone exams. 

‘We can’t purely base it on previous coursework, because students weren’t warned in advance. 

Many parents fear closures would jeopardise their child’s grades in comparison to institutions which remained open.

Mr Robinson predicted that, if there were a slump in grades owing to missed lessons in affected schools, these could be inflated.

The exam regulator also called for affected students to be given special dispensation in this summer’s exams 

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran MP echoed the view and said exam boards should take into account illnesses. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Exam season is an extremely stressful time for pupils and it is crucial that schools take a compassionate approach. 

‘This is particularly the case for pupils who miss lessons due to illness. Exam boards must have plans for how they can take into account individual circumstances.’  

Mr Robinson pointed out that most GCSE and A-Level syllabuses would have already been covered, and doubted that the range of exam questions would be reduced.  

Online learning tools have been mooted as potential options in the event of school closures.

An article in the Times Educational Supplement said Google Classroom could be used to set work for pupils to do at home.

But Mr Robinson, a computer science teacher, poured cold water on these proposals and said most schools ‘lacked the infrastructure’ to execute this.

YouTube has been mooted as a teaching tool, with teachers sending links to relevant videos or even creating their own, then setting questions about the material. 

Both GCSE and A-Levels results day fall in the middle of August, which would also likely be pushed back if exams were postponed.

This would pose problems for universities, who typically confirm offers on results day about a month before term begins.

It is unclear what would happen for school leavers in this situation, but Mr Robinson said ‘universities would have to be flexible’.    

Last week more than 30 schools closed or sent home pupils who had returned from ski trips in northern Italy. Many of those are reopening.     

Professor Chris Whitty, has not ruled out closing schools in the event of a major outbreak but said it would not be taken lightly. 

DailyMail Online


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