Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the government is now working to delay phase – with anyone who has symptoms now told to stay at home for at least seven days.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of emergency committee Cobra today (Thursday March 12), Mr Johnson described COVID-19 as ‘the worst public health crisis for a generation’.
He said: “If you have coronavirus symptoms however mild, either a new continuous cough or a high temperature, then you should stay at home for at least seven days to protect others and help slow the spread of the disease.
“Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.
“Some people compare it to seasonal flu, alas that is not right.
“Due to the lack of immunity this disease is more dangerous.
“It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
Mr Johnson said a delay of even a few weeks would allow the NHS to be better prepared.
He also advised against elderly people taking cruises and international school trips.
The Prime Minister said schools will not be closed and public gatherings are not yet to be banned.
“Schools should only closed if they are specifically advised to do.”
Mr Johnson added the measures would cause disruption for months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It’s clear that coronavirus Covid-19 continues and will continue to spread across the world and our country over the next few months.
“We’ve done what can be done to contain this disease, and this has bought us valuable time, but it’s now a global pandemic.
“The number of cases will rise sharply, indeed the true number of cases is higher – perhaps much higher – than the number of cases we have so far confirmed with tests.”
The announcement comes as the number of coronavirus cases across the UK rose to 590 – the largest day-to-day increase so far in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.
However Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said the actual number of people infected in the UK at the moment could be between 5,000 and 10,000.
Ten people who have tested for Covid-19 are now confirmed to have died – with all of them having underlying health conditions.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England said: “I am sorry to confirm two further people have sadly died in England who tested positive for Covid-19. This takes the total in England to 10.
“I offer my sincere condolences to their families and friends and ask that their privacy is respected.
“They both had underlying health conditions. The patients were at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Trust and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.”
In Scotland gatherings of more than 500 people have been cancelled from the start of next week.
In the Republic of Ireland all schools have been closed – with teaching set to take place online and remotely, it was announced today.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said anyone with symptoms indicative of coronavirus should self-isolate for seven days.
Yesterday the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 was being treated as a pandemic.
As of 4.50pm today there have 129,838 cases confirmed in 125 countries and territories around the world.
There have been 4,751 deaths and 68,672 recoveries.