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UK to ban mass gatherings from next week under emergency laws

There could also be moves to get more people to work from home.

Crowds attend the Cheltenham Festival in the UK earlier this week
Crowds attend the Cheltenham Festival in the UK earlier this week
Image: Tim Goode/PA

PLANS ARE UNDER way to ban mass gatherings in the UK from next week as the government there looks to implement more extreme measures in the fight against Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism in recent days for not taking such actions, despite similar steps being taken by other European countries as the pandemic worsens.

Emergency legislation bringing in beefed-up powers will be published next week and there could also be a move towards more people working from home, a source said.

The announcement comes as the UK deals with a rising number of cases of the illness, increasing to 798, and a death toll of 11.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic and Donald Trump indicated that he could add the UK to a list of countries facing a US travel ban.

Trump said the UK could be added to the list of European countries included on the list after he described cases of coronavirus as having risen “fairly precipitously” since he initially announced the ban with the UK and Ireland exemption.

Several events in the UK were cancelled or postponed yesterday as the crisis worsened there.

The London Marathon, scheduled to take place in April, was postponed until October.

The Football Association announced that the Premier League will be suspended until April, while next week’s Champions League and Europa League matches were also postponed, as was today’s Wales v Scotland Six Nations rugby match.

Local and mayoral elections in May were also postponed for a year, while London’s St Patrick’s Day parade and celebrations on Sunday were cancelled.

‘Based on the best scientific evidence’

Scores of major sporting and cultural events had already been suspended, despite the UK government resisting calls to ban mass events in guidance earlier this week.

Scotland had already announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

Late last night, a Whitehall source said: “Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.

“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.

“There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible.

“We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations. We will publish this legislation next week.”

The Times reported that the laws could give police and immigration officers powers to detain people if they are suspected of being infected and the ability to direct schools to stay open.

The newspaper said the laws could remain in place for two years. 

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