Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to set out Britain’s plan to tackle outbreak

There are 39 known cases of the infection in the UK

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures in front of a map of Italy in the command centre during a visit to the Public Health England National Infection Service in Colindale in north London on March 1, 2020. / AFP / POOL / HENRY NICHOLLS
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday set out the government’s action plan to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus.

There are 39 cases of the novel Covid-19 in the UK but health officials fear that the infection will become widespread.

Mr Johnson will host a press conference in Downing Street to launch the plan, alongside the chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

The new plan, agreed by all four UK countries, will outline how ministers will confront the virus.

Later in the week, a major public information campaign will be launched setting out clear steps the public can take to limit the spread of the virus, including washing their hands regularly with soap and water.

A new bill will also be published in the coming weeks to ensure Government has all the necessary powers to prepare for and tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

The new measures will include every government department having a designated ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus, for instance on schools or businesses.

The government also intends to set up “a war room” in the Cabinet Office, bringing together communications experts and scientists from across government and the NHS to roll out the public information campaign.

Coronavirus will be a standing item on the weekly Cabinet agenda and the government will have the option, should the virus spread, to encourage more home working and discourage unnecessary travel as part of a ‘social distancing’ strategy that could delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year.

The British government is also considering calling retired heatlh professionals out of retirement on an emergency basis.

Mr Johnson said: “It is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, which is why we’re making every possible preparation.

“We have agreed a plan, which I will set out in detail on Tuesday, so if the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable," he added.

“But we can all continue to do our bit to fight this virus - by washing our hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.”

Mr Johnson has also made a number of visits to hospitals in the UK over the last few days, where they are treating and carrying out tests for the virus.

On Monday, the Prime Minister brought together the Government’s emergency committee on the coronavirus outbreak, where attendees discussed, finalised and signed off the battle plan.