The Queen has worn gloves for the first time at a Buckingham Palace investiture since she started doing them in 1952 amid warnings about the spread of coronavirus and the deadly danger it poses to the over-80s.
The 93-year-old’s decision to cover her hands to above the wrists came as the Government warned the death rate for people infected is ‘significantly ramped up’ among the elderly and a major outbreak is ‘highly likely’.
Her Majesty wears gloves when she meets the public at events or garden parties – but not at investitures where she carries out the fiddly task of fastening the awards to a hook on the recipients’ lapels.
Today she wore them for the first time in her reign as Boris Johnson unveiled the ‘battle plan’ to tackle a major outbreak on British soil, which could see troops deployed on streets and police told to ignore low-level crime.
Infected patients not suffering from complications could be sent home from hospital under the drastic measures, and non-urgent NHS operations could be cancelled to free up space in overwhelmed hospitals.
The Prime Minister’s plan was announced just moments before Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed twelve new coronavirus cases in the UK, with 51 patients now known to have caught the deadly infection in the UK.
The new cases were scattered across London, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Humberside and Kent. Eight caught the virus in Italy – the others in Germany, Singapore, Japan and Iran.
In other developments, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates in an emergency move designed to shield the world’s largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus as shares have plummeted over pandemic fears.
The Queen, who has carried out investitures since 1952, has worn gloves for the first time as she handed an MBE to D-Day veteran Harry Billinge today
Spot the difference: The gloved Queen shakes hands with Butterflies star Wendy Craig as she is made a CBE today – in November she made Marnie Gaffney from Kingston-Upon-Thames is Member of the Royal Victorian Order with her hands uncovered
Her Majesty never usually wears gloves at the Palace events, shown right knighting Alastair Cook in February 2017 without her hands covered and left making Sir Archibald Tunnock a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in November 2019
Revealed: Boris Johnson’s three-stage ‘battle plan’, which could see NHS staff called out of retirement and troops deployed on streets. Large scale gatherings such as the London Marathon could also be scrapped
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.
The oversized gloves, which stretched past the Queen’s wrist, appeared much longer than the ones she usually wears when out and about meeting the public on official engagements.
However, Prince William and Kate didn’t wear gloves as they started their three-day trip to Ireland this afternoon and Prince Charles was also gloveless at a Royal College of Music event
Today the Queen smiled as she gave Butterflies star Wendy Craig, 85, her CBE in a ceremony where Norfolk novelist Rose Tremain was also made a dame for her services to writing.
D-Day veteran Horace ‘Harry’ Billinge was given an MBE, which he dedicated to his fallen comrades who ‘inspired’ him.
The former Royal Engineer, who was just 18 when he stormed the beaches in German-occupied Normandy on June 6 1944, said it was ‘wonderful’ to meet the Queen.
He revealed afterwards: ‘She [the Queen] said ‘I hear you was on D-Day’, and I said ‘I was’,’ he said’, ‘She was very, very kind. There are no words to describe it’.
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;
- Disney has scrapped planned press events in London for the launch of its streaming service amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak;
- Social media has a ‘very important role’ in stopping the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said;
- Arsenal’s football stars have abandoned traditional pre-match handshakes in favour of fist-bumps – amid growing fears over the coronavirus;
- 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.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said today that overall around one per cent of people who become infected ‘might end up dying’. But that rate increases markedly when a person is over the age of 80.
A gloveless Prince Charles speaks with Oscar winning British composer Rachel Portman during a reception in the new Performance Hall, after presenting her with an honorary Fellowship award during the Royal College of Music’s Annual Awards Ceremony
William and Kate are representing the royal family in Ireland over the next three days – but chose not to wear gloves as they landed in Dublin today
PANIC-BUYING BRITS STRIP SUPERMARKET SHELVES OF PASTA, COUSCOUS AND WATER
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
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 confectionery 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’.
The government’s 28-page battle plan for tackling the virus, agreed at the first emergency Cobra meeting to be chaired by the PM yesterday, states the elderly and people with pre-existing illnesses would be at highest risk.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the plans at a press conference, saying the government would take all ‘necessary and reasonable steps’ to contain the coronavirus.
He appealed for the public to keep ‘going about our business as usual’ and, when asked whether he thought the UK still had the ‘bulldog spirit’ to combat the virus, the premier said: ‘I do think that this is a national challenge.
‘The potential is there for this to be something that our country has to get through. But I have absolutely no doubt that we have the resources, we have the health service to get through it.’
The report stresses the response is still in the ‘containment’ phase. But experts fear they will have to shift to ‘delay’ tactics – effectively damage limitation – within days or weeks amid growing outbreaks across Europe.
The COVID-19 action plan states that among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms and other will have a ‘mild-to-moderate self-limiting illness’.
‘As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that Covid 19 has the potential to spread extensively,’ the document says.
‘The current data seems to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it seems more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.’
The plan published today says in the event of mass infections Government ‘will aim to minimise the social and economic impact, subject to keeping people safe’.
There would be ‘population distancing strategies’ such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, and reducing the number of large scale gatherings to slow the spread of the disease.
Pensioners would be advised to stay away from events, such as VE Day commemorations, to avoid putting themselves at risk.
However, experts say that an infected person is as likely to pass on the virus to 12 people in a pub as in a 70,000-seater stadium.
Police ‘would concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order’ if forces suffer ‘a significant loss of officers and staff.’
Meanwhile, the armed forces could be called upon to ‘backfill’ gaps in emergency services and provide other assistance if required.
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’
At a press conference today, Boris Johnson said the government would take all ‘necessary and reasonable steps’ to curb the impact of coronavirus
The chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty (left), was at the press conference today, as was UK chief scientific office Sir Patrick Vallance (right)
No10 chief Dominic Cummings (left) and Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) were in Downing Street today
Coronavirus fears have gripped Britain, as a pedestrian is pictured wearing a protective facemask while taking a bus in Westminster, London
TWO PATIENTS IN DEVON ARE TREATED 400 MILES AWAY IN NEWCASTLE – DESPITE THREE SPECIALIST HOSPITALS BEING CLOSER
Two cases in Devon were transferred to the furthest possible hospital some 400 miles away in Newcastle
Fears the UK is running out of beds for coronavirus patients were raised today after two cases were transferred 400miles away from their family.
Two patients in Devon, a secondary school pupil and his mother, were diagnosed with the killer virus near Torbay on Monday after catching it on holiday in northern Italy.
The bizarre decision was made to fly them 390miles to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where they’ll be cut off from loved ones and isolated for two weeks.
The RVI is one of only four NHS hospitals in England equipped with specialist units capable of dealing with highly contagious illnesses like coronavirus.
But questions are being asked as to why the Devon pair weren’t taken to three other hospitals in London and Liverpool. It has sparked concerns there are not enough beds left in the country’s coronavirus wards and that families with cases could be torn apart.
‘The Ministry of Defence has put in place plans to ensure the delivery of its operations in the UK and overseas. There are also well-practiced arrangements for Defence to support to civil authorities if requested.
The police could be asked to enforce road and building closures, and the Army could be drafted in to enforce lockdowns where necessary.
The report also highlights the threat to the NHS, which could come under extreme pressure from a wave of a cases.
Non-coronavirus patients could be discharged early from hospital to recuperate at home, and routine operations postponed. Recently retired doctors, nurses and other staff could be brought back to help increase capacity.
A reasonable ‘worst case scenario’ would see 80 per cent of the UK population contract the virus, with up to a fifth of employees unable to work in ‘peak weeks’ – predicted to be in three months’ time.
A minority of people could develop complications – such as pneumonia – severe enough to require hospital care. ‘In a small proportion of these, the illness may be severe enough to lead to death,’ the plan states.
The document adds that ‘the risk of severe disease and death increases among elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions’.
Following the launch of the action plan, Professor Whitty said: ‘Overall, probably around one per cent of people who get this virus might end up dying based on the Chinese experience.
‘To be clear that therefore means 99 per cent of people will not. If a higher proportion than we are currently aware of, get the infection without any symptoms that mortality rate will go down.
‘But let’s take one per cent overall as the current reasonable figure. It goes up a bit in people who are older and more vulnerable. It will be much lower than that in younger people who have no other health problems.
‘The bit of information we don’t know – the proportion of people who have no symptoms at all. And the second thing we cannot be sure of is what proportion of the population can get infected.
‘It will not go above 80 per cent – for planning purposes of course we go up to the highest rate that it reasonably could – but in my view the proportion of the population that get infected is likely to be… a lot lower.’
Almost 91,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded across the world. At least 3,100 people are known to have died
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
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.
He added: ‘There is a significant ramp up in the risk of people dying with this infection once they get over 80. It begins to take off a bit earlier than that.
‘Even for the highest risk group, the great majority of people will survive this If you look at the Chinese data, if you take the very oldest people, the great majority survive.’
Scientists are still hoping that if rapid spread can be staved off until the summer warmer weather will help, but are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of avoiding a major outbreak in the UK.
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.
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.
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.
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 spokeswoman for the company said: ‘We can confirm that a member of staff based at our London Road offices in Norbiton received a positive test for the Covid-19 virus yesterday.
It comes as online travel agent Travel Republic (left) today closed its office in London after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus. Hilbre High School (right) 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
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
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS A ‘VERY IMPORTANT ROLE’ IN STOPPING SPREAD OF FAKE CORONAVIRUS NEWS
Social media has a ‘very important role’ in stopping the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, the Prime Minister has said.
At a press conference in 10 Downing Street outlining the Government’s plan to respond to the outbreak, Boris Johnson said social networking platforms had a responsibility to prevent conspiracy theories about the virus spreading online.
‘We’ve all got to be very responsible and the media has a very important role in this, particularly the social media and electronic media of all types,’ he said. ‘I’m sure that they will want to convey the right messages and convey the right balance of risk.’
It comes as experts warn that the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories about the illness online could cause as much damage as the virus itself.
They argue that many conspiracy theories arise during moments of crisis in society as a way of trying to make sense of a chaotic situation. People who believe in such theories tend to distrust groups they perceive as powerful – with many theories revolving around the idea of those in power acting to stay in control.
As a result, the experts warn that if people do not trust health organisations, they are more likely to ignore medical advice and therefore be more at risk.
In response to concerns about misinformation linked to Covid-19, Both Facebook and Twitter have introduced features which link to the official NHS and World Health Organisation websites for accurate advice and information on the outbreak at the top of search results.
Google has also implemented a similar scheme for its own search results.
‘They are now receiving medical attention. As a precaution, we have closed our offices today while a deep clean is undertaken and we receive further advice from the relevant authorities.
‘All staff have been notified and encouraged to contact the NHS 111 if they are concerned or feel unwell.
‘Our primary concern at this time is the health of our staff, and we’re working with the authorities to ensure best practice guidelines are being followed.’
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.’
Face masks have become an increasingly common sight on the streets of London as concern about coronavirus rises
Most of BA’s cancellations are for short-haul flights between Heathrow and Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland. Pictured: A woman wearing a face mask at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport
Bank of England governor Mark Carney (pictured) 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
Wimbledon College (left), in south-west London, shut its doors yesterday because of the coronavirus. St Mary’s Church of England Primary School (right) in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, was closed for deep cleaning until Wednesday
PENSIONERS TOLD TO THINK TWICE ABOUT GOING ON HOLIDAY TO CORONAVIRUS-HIT COUNTRIES WITH ‘WEAK’ HEALTH SERVICES
Pensioners were today warned they should think twice about going on holiday to coronavirus-hit countries with ‘very weak’ health services.
The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, urged vulnerable individuals to consider the ‘practicalities’ of where they are travelling.
The advice came as Professor Whitty took questions at a press conference alongside Boris Johnson and UK chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance.
Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick played down the risk to healthy Britons of going abroad, with the chief scientist pointing out that if coronavirus spreads in the UK it ‘doesn’t make any sense to say you are at more risk anywhere else than you are here’.
But Professor Whitty said there were a few countries where pensioners and the vulnerable should be wary of travelling to.
‘If you happen to be in a place with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic, weaker than the NHS, that obviously might be more problematic,’ he said.
‘They might want to think through the practicalities of being in a place that has a health service that is weaker than the NHS.’
Professor Whitty stressed that although the elderly are at higher risk from coronavirus, the ‘great majority’ survive.
Another UK school closed today after a parent of a pupil tested positive for coronavirus. Hilbre High in West Kirby, Wirral, shut at lunchtime after an infected step-parent attended the school yesterday before later testing positive for the illness.
Their child, a boy, does not currently have symptoms but will now self-isolate and not return to school for 14 days.
Headteacher Mark Bellamy said the school will undertake two days of deep cleaning before reopening on Friday and confirmed the school had not been asked to close by Wirral Council or Public Health England.
National advice says schools should not close in response to suspected or confirmed cases of the virus unless directed to do so by Public Health England.
Mr Bellamy also said the confirmed case was not connected to a February half term ski trip to Northern Italy taken by a group of Hillbre High students.
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.
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’.
Jonathan Mok was left with a swollen eye and a bloodied nose after he was attacked on Oxford Street
Mr Mok had been walking along Oxford Street (pictured above) when he was set upon
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
CORONAVIRUS HATE ATTACKS: THUGS FRACTURE FACE OF STUDENT, 22, FROM SINGAPORE
Jonathan Mok had been walking through Oxford Street on February 24 when he passed a group of men.
The 23-year-old said one man told him he ‘didn’t want coronavirus in our country’ before kicking him on the ground. Mr Mok suffered fractures and may now need reconstructive surgery after the incident.
He has lived in the capital for the last two years and claims he had already suffered racist abuse before the virus.
It comes after it was revealed that a woman in Birmingham was attacked after she confronted a man who racially-abused her friend, telling her to ‘take your f****** coronavirus back home’.
Meera Solanki stood up for Mandy Huang but the man pushed her in the head and she was knocked unconscious, The Independent reported.
Another student Wenbin Wu, was also targeted in Kent because of his race.
Mr Wu who is studying at university in London, was on a day-trip to Margate in Kent when three teens fake sneezed and shouted ‘coronavirus’ as he walked past.
The 27-year-old, who studies computer science and finance at King’s College London, said one tried to pick a fight and followed him and his two companions until he started taking photos and recording them.
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.
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.
Professor 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.
Experts say the virus can live on hard surfaces, such as handles or rails, for hours or even days after it leaves the body. A man is pictured on a train in London wearing a face mask today
A woman wears a protective face mask while sitting on a London Underground train today, March 3
How the coronavirus outbreak will affect your life: Your ‘battle plan’ questions answered, including how deadly is it, how can I prevent it spreading, will schools shut and should I staycation this summer?
CORONAVIRUS ESSENTIAL GUIDE: ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MINIMISE YOUR RISK OF CATCHING THE ILLNESS
Does handwashing really work?
Yes. A new study published by the highly-respected Cochrane Database which summarises and interprets numerous studies says that handwashing cuts the chances of contracting a respiratory illness such as coronavirus by 54 per cent – the best odds of any deterrent.
So wash your hands – scrubbing every bit of skin from your wrist downwards – at every opportunity for at least 20 seconds (or for however long it takes to sing Happy Birthday in your head twice).
Should I use public transport?
Only if necessary. If you can work from home rather than commuting, and also minimise shopping trips, you will greatly reduce your infection risk.
One recent study in Nottingham found that people who contracted the flu virus in 2011 were nearly six times more likely than others to have travelled by public transport in the five days before developing symptoms.
Planes, trains and buses are high-risk environments for easily transmitted viruses – and Covid-19 is particularly infectious – to spread on to our hands via surfaces such as handrails, seats and handles.
If I stay at home, will I be safe?
No. Family and friends can easily bring in the virus. To reduce this threat, institute a handwashing rule for everyone as soon as they enter the house.
And make sure there is one hand towel for each person. If that’s not practicable, wash towels frequently.
How should I greet a friend?
Kissing somebody on the cheek is, as the French government is warning, a one-way ticket to speeding up viral transmission. As to kissing on the mouth… just say no!
According to GP and health commentator Dr Rosemary Leonard, we should ‘stop shaking hands’ too.
Perhaps that’s why Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer waved away Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand at a meeting yesterday. The safest way to greet someone is to simply say: ‘Hello.’
But if that’s not enough, recent tests by Aberystwyth University show that fist-bumping transfers only a tenth of the bacteria that a handshake transmits.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer refuses shaking hand with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Integration Summit at Prime Ministry building in Berlin, Germany on March 02, 2020
Do I need to change the way I wash my clothes?
According to the NHS all underwear, towels and household linen should be washed at 60C or 40C with a bleach-based laundry product to prevent microbes spreading.
There’s no point adding more detergent, as modern machines are programmed to break up and wash away surplus cleaning agent.
Using a dryer on high heat for more than 28 minutes can also kill harmful micro-organisms – though you could also hang up your washing outdoors in direct sunlight, which has disinfecting properties. Always remember to wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
Should I stockpile food?
There’s no need to hoard for a nuclear winter, but it might be wise to have some long-lasting foods in the larder.
Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland, Australia, has suggested buying cereals, grains, beans, lentils, pasta, tinned fish, vegetables, fruit, oil, dried fruit, nuts, powdered milk and a few sweet treats.
This will also cut your number of shopping trips – thus reducing your risk of exposure – and could be useful in the unlikely event that your town or city is put into lockdown.
What if my town is locked down?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out placing British cities on lockdown – when residents’ movements are restricted – as is the case in parts of China and northern Italy.
Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Government has the power to close schools, shut down public transport and stop mass gatherings to protect the public – though it seems unlikely it will be enforced.
Will exams be affected?
Students should keep on swotting. The exam watchdog Ofqual announced yesterday that schools in England should prepare as usual for the summer exam season.
However, the Government will make contingency plans if there is a ‘widespread outbreak’.
What about school trips?
Some overseas trips by schools, colleges and universities are being cancelled already.
Even visits to places outside virus-stricken areas are affected, as some institutions are concerned that shepherding youngsters through highly populated zones such as airports may be a risk too far. Check with your school etc for the most up-to-date information.
Should older people worry?
The evidence so far is that older people (especially those with underlying health issues) who have weaker immune systems are at greater risk of serious illness and death. Children and young adults seem more resilient.
According to recent analysis of more than 44,000 cases from China, the death rate was ten times higher in the very elderly compared with the middle-aged.
The elderly should be encouraged to limit their outings and social contact and insist that visitors wash their hands upon arrival.
So the real question is: how keen are you to go out? Any concert trip, for example, raises the risk of catching winter flu and colds.
It’s important to factor in the current state of health of your guest and how likely it is they’ll be exposed to the virus – but ultimately it’s up to you and them whether you want to risk it.
What about prescriptions?
Factory shutdowns in China where many vital ingredients for common drugs are made are an issue.
Some of the largest pharmaceutical companies – including AstraZeneca and Pfizer – have said that the outbreak could affect their supplies.
There is some evidence of panic-buying of over-the-counter medicines, though none of these will protect against coronavirus or its worst symptoms. Ocado has reportedly just sold out of Calpol.
Should I cancel my ski trip?
Keep an eye on the gov.uk website for latest travel advice. If it advises against travel to a certain region and you decide to go, your insurance won’t be valid.
Nor will insurers pay out if you cancel a holiday to a location that is not deemed high risk.
As of last night, there were no warnings about French, Swiss, Italian and Austrian ski resorts – although the Foreign Office advises against ‘all but essential travel’ to 11 small towns in northern Italy.
Boris Johnson warned that the UK was facing a ‘national challenge’ as coronavirus sweeps the globe today as he set out how the UK plans to tackle a potential mass outbreak affecting millions of people.
He and the Government’s two chief scientific and medical advisers faced the cameras today as Covid-19 continues to sweep the world.
While keen to stress that most people will experience only mild symptoms the Government today set out its battle plan to cope with a growing pandemic that is already in Britain.
Asked whether the UK still had the ‘bulldog spirit’ to tackle the virus and accept the emergency measures that could be required, Mr Johnson said: ‘I do think that this is a national challenge and I do think that we are faced with something that could be – the potential is there for this to be – something that our country has to get through.
‘I have got absolutely no doubt that we have the resources, we have got the health service, we have got the expertise to do it.
‘I am very confident the British public understand that. I think the British public can see exactly what the balance of risk is.’
He was flanked by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser to the Government Sir Patrick Vallance today in Downing Street as they set out how they see the situation developing.
What’s the main message?
The main message was for the public to keep calm and carry on – but make sure they wash their hands thoroughly.
The Government has a four step plan:
- Contain – detect early cases and work to prevent it ‘taking hold’ for as long as possible.
- Delay – Once the disease is well established, switch to working to slow its spread, minimise cases and contain it before the winter season comes around again.
- Research – Work to improve diagnosis and treatment including drugs and vaccines.
- Mitigate – provide the best care for sufferers and support services to minimise the overall impact on the nation.
The UK is currently at the Contain stage of this plan, with most of the more intrusive steps that could be taken coming at the Delay and Mitigate stages.
When will the plans be implemented?
Measures outlined by the Prime Minister and medical and scientific experts today will only be introduced when it is judged they will be most effective.
They are concerned that introducing disruptive measures too early would be counterproductive, which is why the main advice at the moment is simply to thoroughly wash your hands.
Authorities have made it clear they do not want to disrupt people’s lives if it will make little or no difference to the spread of the disease or the NHS’s ability to treat people effectively.
How long will it last?
The current plan is for a 12-week cycle of action to tackle the outbreak. This is the time taken for it to reach a peak of cases before it starts to decline over another 12 weeks.
Scientists believe it is unlikely but not impossible that it will be contained before the summer months, when infectious diseases cases usually decline in number.
They are trying to slow its advance until then, to allow nature to help fight the battle for them.
But as yet they do not know whether this will be the only outbreak or whether it could become endemic – regularly appearing.
It sounds alarming that 80 per cent of the population could be infected and one per cent. How likely is it?
At the moment scientists are being very cautious with their projections seek more information about the global outbreak.
They were at pains today to stress that this is very much a worst-case scenario.
Evidence from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began, suggests Coronavirus is nowhere near that deadly or contagious at the moment.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty stressed: ‘Even for the highest risk group, the great majority of people will survive this.
‘If you look at the Chinese data, if you take the very oldest people, the great majority survive.’
He added: ‘If you’re talking about the low-risk groups, the rate of mortality is well below 1 per cent.’
Who is most at risk of the virus and why?
As mentioned above, the elderly are one of the key groups.
Prof Whitty said there is a ‘significant ramp up’ in the death rate of those infected with coronavirus who are over 80 years old.
Depending on the advance of the virus, there are plans for specific measures to be taken around care homes to minimise infection risk.
Also at high risk are other ‘vulnerable’ people, those with pre-existing medical conditions that may leave them with a weakened immune system like cancer.
He said: ‘The exact percentages will depend on a lot of factors – including the health care system you have in place, so I would not expect… the numbers we are seeing in China automatically to read over to the UK.’
Can the NHS cope with an outbreak of this size?
Prof Whitty said the health services was used to ‘flexing’ to deal with large-scale outbreaks, and regularly did so for things like the winter flu.
Contingency plans are being prepared that would allow retired medics to volunteer to help. Non-essential surgery and other care would also be postponed to allow resources to be used for critical patients. And patients recuperating in hospital face being sent home to convalesce to free up beds.
Will towns be put into lockdown?
It is looking less and less likely that the UK will replicate the isolation that has been seen in Wuhan.
Because the disease is already in the country and would be hard to contain in one place at this stage, medics believe that the social and economic cost of quarantining thousands of people would far outstrip any benefit.
Will I get paid if I’m off sick?
The Prime Minister said ‘all options’ would remain under review when asked what he would do to ensure those who are ill do not also suffer hardship.
Mr Johnson said: ‘On the issue of statutory sick pay and the risks that the workforce could conceivably run in that reasonable worst case scenario, we’re going to keep all options under review but we are well aware of the issue.’
Should I go on holiday?
The vast majority of the public should not alter their travel plans said the chief scientific adviser to the Government Sir Patrick Vallance.
‘Once the epidemic is everywhere, then actually restricting travel makes no difference at all,’ he said.
‘At the moment we are certainly not recommending any change to behaviours in relation to that.
‘And if it grows in the UK, then of course it doesn’t really make more sense to say that you’re at more risk somewhere else than you are here.’
A woman wears a face mask in London today, March 3. Scientists say masks are probably not any good at stopping the viruses, which are so tiny they can make it through the material
Europe as a whole is on alert for a coronavirus outbreak – the numbers of cases are in their hundreds and thousands in France, Germany and Italy. A woman and child are pictured wearing masks in Brussels, Belgium
HOW HAS CHINA’S CORONAVIRUS SPREAD OVER TIME?
The vast majority of confirmed infections of the Wuhan coronavirus have been diagnosed in China.
But almost 70 countries or territories outside of the mainland have also declared infections:
December 31: HUBEI PROVINCE (China)
January 13: THAILAND
January 16: JAPAN
January 20: USA, SOUTH KOREA
January 21: TAIWAN
January 22: MACAU, HONG KONG,
January 23: SINGAPORE
January 24: FRANCE, NEPAL, VIETNAM
January 25: CANADA, AUSTRALIA, MALAYSIA,
January 27: GERMANY, CAMBODIA, SRI LANKA
January 29: FINLAND, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
January 30: ITALY, PHILIPPINES, INDIA
January 31: UK, RUSSIA, SWEDEN, SPAIN
February 1: DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP
February 4: BELGIUM
February 14: EGYPT
February 19: IRAN
February 21: ISRAEL, LEBANON
February 24: KUWAIT, BAHRAIN, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, OMAN
February 25: AUSTRIA, CROATIA, SWITZERLAND
February 26: NORTH MACEDONIA, BRAZIL, GREECE, PAKISTAN, GEORGIA, NORWAY, ROMANIA
February 27: ESTONIA, DENMARK, NETHERLANDS, SAN MARINO
February 28: NIGERIA, LITHUANIA, BELARUS, NEW ZEALAND, MEXICO, ICELAND
February 29: MONACO, ECUADOR, QATAR, AZERBAIJAN
March 1: IRELAND, ARMENIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, CZECHIA, LUXEMBOURG
March 2: INDONESIA, TUNISIA, JORDAN, ANDORRA, LATVIA, PORTUGAL, SENEGAL, MOROCCO, SAUDI ARABIA
March 3: UKRAINE, GIBRALTAR
But people who are in an at-risk group might want to look at where they are going – how prevalent the disease is and the standard of local medical care, in case you become ill.
Professor Whitty added: ‘If you happen to be in a place with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic, weaker than the NHS, that obviously might be more problematic – and this is particularly an issue for people who are older or have pre-existing health conditions.’
Are schools going to close down and will I have to take time off work to look after my children?
As with the idea of quarantining entire towns and cities, this is not being ruled out but is not a priority.
Evidence from China suggests that children are less susceptible to catching the virus and suffer a milder illness if they do contract it, the scientists said.
In addition, having thousands of children off school would place additional strain on the NHS as vital staff took time off for childcare.
Should I be panic buying in case of being forced to stay at home in quarantine?
No., there is no need to do that. Prof Whitty said that there was no evidence that people did panic buy but took ‘logical decisions’.
‘There is no reason to be doing any panic buying or any sort of keeping large supplies of anything,’ he said.
‘This is a scientific point… the response of the British public to disasters and emergencies is extraordinary outbreaks of altruism.’
Sir Patrick said measures would be taken if homes were put under quarantine and appropriate steps taken for places such as care homes.
His comments came after Ocado warned that people are placing larger orders than usual and other supermarkets worked up contingency plans.
In some places, supermarket and pharmacy shelves have been cleared out of antibacterial gel and other supplies.
What about information I see on social media about keeping safe?
Matt Hancock the health Secretary, met with social media firms yesterday to discuss ways of combating disinformation and helping share information that could battle it.
Why is hand washing the key message?
Because it is the easiest way to stop the spread of the virus. Your hands are the part of the body that come into most contact with other people and objects.
The disease is spread like the flu and other infections via droplets released in coughs and sneezes, so using a clean tissue or handkerchief and washing your hands thoroughly and regularly helps prevent them being spread around.
Taking this simple step also means you are less likely to have to take more drastic action, like avoiding personal contact.
The advise is to wash your hands for 20 seconds or more using soap.
Mr Johnson told reporters he continues to shake hands with people.
He said: ‘I am shaking hands, I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were coronavirus patients and I was shaking hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.
‘People must make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is… our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.’
Arsenal stars scrap traditional pre-match handshakes in favour of fist-bumps before FA Cup victory over Portsmouth as football clubs bid to avoid the coronavirus outbreak
Several Gunners’ stars were reluctant to make too much contact with players from opponents Portsmouth as they lined up at the start of Monday night’s FA Cup match.
Instead of a traditional respect handshake, players offered their fists to the League One side.
While Arsenal captain David Luiz did elect for a handshake, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez instead closed his fist and bumped it with the Pompey players.
Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos also offered the same gesture and even did the same with the young Pompey mascots.
Arsenal starlet Joe Willock began shaking hands with the Pompey players but soon switched to fist bumps.
The FA said they are not giving any directives in relation to COVID-19 and are following wider government advice.
Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos fist-bumps Portsmouth goalkeeper Alex Bass
Gunners goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez also opted to avoid handshakes on Monday evening
Sokratis prepares for another fist-bump as Joe Willock does the same with a young mascot
The Greek defender adopted the same greeting for mascots amid fears over the coronavirus
Southampton’s players have stopped shaking hands with each other at the club’s training base
England cricket captain Joe Root has confirmed that his team-mates will fist-bump in Sri Lanka
It is currently down to individual clubs’s medical departments to suggest any special measures such as fist bumps over handshakes.
Further along the south coast, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has banned his players from having selfies and signing autographs with fans over coronavirus fears.
Saints’ players have also stopped shaking hands with one another at the training ground.
A spokesman for the FA said: ‘At present we have no special measures in place in relation to the outbreak of coronavirus.
‘We are currently following wider government advice and this is not a directive that has come from us.’
On Tuesday, England cricket captain Joe Root confirmed his side would adopt a fist-bump policy during their upcoming tour to Sri Lanka.
The England XI missed several players through illness during their recent series against South Africa and will be taking no chances on the sub-continent.
Root, 29, said: ‘After the illnesses that swept through the squad in South Africa, we are well aware of the importance of keeping contact to a minimum.
‘We are not shaking hands with each other, using instead the well-established fist bump, and we are washing hands regularly and wiping down surfaces using the anti-bacterial wipes and gels we’ve been given in our immunity packs.’