Britain announced a jump in coronavirus cases on Sunday, with 12 new infections taking the total to 35, as health minister Matt Hancock said the government was preparing for the global epidemic to get worse.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee on Monday, signalling a stepping up in attempts to tackle a virus that began in China, where authorities estimate it has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide.
We’ve got a clear strategy for dealing with coronavirus – a very, very significant challenge, Hancock told Sky News. We’re also planning in case this gets worse, much worse.
If the virus becomes more widespread, the government will look at registering retired health workers to work again, and whether encouraging people to work at home could delay its peak until summer when it can be more easily dealt with.
Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty said that as of 0900 GMT there had been 12 new positive tests in Britain, bringing the total to 35.
Of those new positive tests, three had been in close contact with an existing known case, six had recently travelled from Italy, and two from Iran. They were investigating one case with no relevant travel, to find out how they caught the virus.
Before that announcement, Hancock said the outbreak was still in a containment phase in Britain. The health department could not be immediately reached to confirm if that status had changed following the announcement of new positive tests.
Hancock said he did not rule out any measures to contain the spread of the virus but said that any further restrictions would be based on scientific evidence, and that for now people should go about their ordinary business.
The issue will become a standing item for all cabinet meetings and there will be more media briefings from health officials.
Johnson wrote in the Sun newspaper that it was right to be concerned about the possible spread of the virus, but said a visit to a British hospital had left him 100 per cent confident in the medical resilience
The government is launching a new public information campaign this week, encouraging people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, and to do so more often than normal.