People should “start working from home where they possibly can” Boris Johnson announced this evening as the government steps up its response to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
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Speaking at the first of his now daily press conferences, the prime minister said that without drastic action coronavirus cases could double every five or six days. The government’s intention is to “flatten and delay” the peak number of cases.
“Last week we asked everyone to stay at home if you had one of two key symptoms: a high temperature or a new and continuous cough,” said Johnson.
“Today we need to go further… If you or anyone in your household has one of those two symptoms then you should stay at home for 14 days. That means that if possible, you should not go out even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others.”
He then focused on asymptomatic households.
“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. We need people to start working from home where they possibly can and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.”
He added that the advice to avoid all unnecessary social contact was particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.
“In a few days’ time, by the weekend, it will be necessary to go further and to ensure that those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks,” said the prime minister.
He explained also that the epidemic was spreading faster in London and that residents now pay special attention to what we’re saying about avoiding non-essential and “to take particularly seriously the advice about working from home”.
The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said other measures may be necessary – including school closures – at some point. “Those things need to be done at the right time,” he explained.