Boris Johnson says coronavirus 'will spread more widely' ahead of action plan launch

2 March 2020, 22:31 | Updated: 2 March 2020, 22:49

Boris Johnson visited a Public Health England laboratory on Sunday
Boris Johnson visited a Public Health England laboratory on Sunday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said coronavirus "will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks" ahead of the government's action plan launch.

The UK leader is set to launch the full plan on Tuesday at a press conference in Downing Street.

He will be speaking alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

On Monday, the prime minister chaired an emergency Cobra meeting where the final details for the battle plan were signed off.

Representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all agreed on the proposal that will set out how ministers plan to confront the disease.

Mr Johnson will repeat his call to respond to scientific advice, rather than political pressure, when combating the Covid-19 outbreak.

He will say: "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 today, so if the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable.

“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.”

The plan seeks to ensure that ministers are able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances surrounding the infection.

Mr Johnson will fully set out his coronavirus action plan on Tuesday
Mr Johnson will fully set out his coronavirus action plan on Tuesday. Picture: PA

Downing Street is set to launch "a major public information campaign" later in the week that will set out "clear steps the public can take to limit the spread of the virus, including washing their hands regularly with soap and water."

In the coming weeks, a new piece of legislation will be published that will grant the government "all the necessary powers" to combat the coronavirus.

New measures that have already been set out as part of the battle plan include: setting up a "war room" in the Cabinet Office of experts and scientists; leaving open the option of people working from home and not travelling unless necessary; and hiring health professionals as a matter of urgency if required.

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