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Boris Johnson urges British people to avoid social contact and to work from home

The British prime minister also advised people to stop all non-essential travel.

Image: PA Video

Updated Mar 16th 2020, 5:12 PM

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has urged people in the UK to stop all non-essential contact and stop all non-essential travel. 

Jonson also said anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or temperature 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 said.

In a dramatic escalation of the government’s response,  Johnson said that even those without symptoms needed to take extra action.

“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,” he said.

Mass gatherings are something “we are now moving emphatically away from”, he said. Johnson said the government would no longer support any mass gatherings with the provision of emergency workers. 

He said people should start working from home “where they possibly can”.

“You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues,” he said.

Boris Johnson set out the need for “drastic action” to tackle the “fast growth” of coronavirus.

The prime minister said that according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) “it looks as though we are now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve” in the number of cases.

“Without drastic action cases could double every five or six days,” he said.

Johnson said London appeared to be “a few weeks ahead” of other areas and urged people in the capital to pay special attention to the measures – including home working –  suggested by the government.

Amid criticism over a perceived lack of transparency, Downing Street announced the plans to hold the press conferences, so either the prime minister or a senior minister can face scrutiny.

Some in the scientific community have criticised the government for taking a slower and more relaxed response to the pandemic than other countries.

In today’s briefing, Johnson said by the weekend, groups particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 will be asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.

He said: “In a few days time, by this coming 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.

“Again, the reason for doing this in the next few days rather than earlier or later is that this is going to be very disruptive for people who have such conditions.

“This advice about avoiding all social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.”

‘Prolonged period’

Chief medical officer for England professor Chris Whitty said measures to tackle the spread of the disease would need to be in place for a “prolonged period”.

He said experts had examined the proposals – looking at mathematical models and behavioural sciences – to find the measures which were the most effective but were also sustainable.

“This is going to go on for some time,” he said. “We should not be under any illusions that ‘if we just do this for a couple of weeks that is sufficient’.

“This is going to have to be a prolonged period.”

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the latest measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 would have a “big effect”.

“This is not a series of small interventions. You would anticipate that this could have a dramatic effect to reduce the peak and to reduce death rates,” he said.

“They are not easy but they are important and they will have the effect if we all do it.

“This is a matter for us to take accountability to make sure we help each other, protect ourselves and protect the NHS.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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