Coronavirus, Boris Johnson to hold emergency Cobra meeting
The prime minister will chair an emergency Cobra meeting later to decide whether to bring in measures to delay the spread of coronavirus in the UK.
The meeting is expected to consider whether “social distancing” measures should be phased in.
These could include banning of big events, closing schools and encouraging home working.
It comes after a man in his 60s became the UK’s third death linked to the Covid-19 virus.
Ministers will also meet with sports bodies and UK supermarkets to discuss their response to the outbreak.
On Sunday, the number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 278, from 209 on Saturday – the biggest rise so far.
The UK is currently in the first phase – “containment” – of the government’s four-part plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
The Cobra meeting is expected to consider whether the UK should officially move into the “delay” phase.
The government has previously said “social distancing” measures to slow the spread of the virus could include a ban on sporting events and other large gatherings, and encouraging people to work from home rather than use crowded trains and buses.
Such a step would require agreement from chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who are due to be at the meeting.
But Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast that he and the prime minister watched the England versus Wales Six Nations match at Twickenham on Saturday, and the current medical advice was that there was no reason to avoid or cancel sports events.
He said: “We are guided by the facts and we are guided by the evidence. At the moment the advice is clear from the chief medical officer: there isn’t a need to cancel such events.”
Sports governing bodies will meet ministers to discuss the possibility of staging events behind closed doors in future, however.
Environment Secretary George Eustice will also discuss contingency plans with supermarket chief executives, including proposals on how to support vulnerable groups who may have to self-isolate.
The latest person to die – a man in his 60s with significant underlying health problems – had recently returned from Italy, Public Health England said on Sunday.
The man was being treated at the specialist infectious diseases unit in North Manchester General Hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.
Prof Whitty said health officials were tracing people who may have been in contact with the man while he was carrying the virus.