Coronavirus 'could shut down entire British cities,' MPs warn

2 March 2020, 08:35 | Updated: 2 March 2020, 08:45

A woman in a face mask on a London bus
A woman in a face mask on a London bus. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The coronavirus outbreak could force entire cities to be shut down, the Health Secretary has indicated.

Matt Hancock said the Government would publish its plans for containing the outbreak this week - and he refused to rule out following the Chinese plan of cutting off entire cities like Wuhan where the bug originated.

Mr Hancock said:  "There's clearly a huge economic and social downside to that [cutting off cities].

"But we don’t take anything off the table at this stage, because you’ve got to make sure that you have all the tools available, if that is what’s necessary.

READ MORE: Johnson to hold coronavirus Cobra meeting

"But I want to minimise the social and economic disruption."

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathon Ashworth says he would support shutting down cities as well.

Speaking today, Mr Ashworth said he wanted clarity from the Government about its next steps to contain the Covid-19 virus.

Asked if he would support shutting down cities to prevent the spread within the UK, Mr Ashworth said: "If the medical advice and the scientific advice is to take measures along those lines, of course we would support them.

He continued: "It would be a move by Government so drastic that we hadn't seen it. And I'm not sure how practical it could be in reality.

"However this virus is serious and appears to spread very easily and we need to contain it and slow down the spread.

"If the medical advice is to do something like that then of course we should support it.

"That is why I am keen, however, that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, comes to the House of Commons today after the Cobra meeting to update MPs on plans.

"We just need clarity from Government."

A statement from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust confirmed one of the most recent cases is a clinician from its Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.

It said: "We are very well prepared for incidents like this and the NHS and Public Health England are taking all necessary steps to manage the situation.

"All individuals who were in contact with the clinician have been identified and the appropriate measures taken.

"The risk to patients and staff at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre is very low and we are working with individual patients to appropriately manage their care.

"We would like to offer assurance that it remains safe for patients to attend Mount Vernon Cancer Centre as normal and ask patients to attend scheduled outpatients appointments."

36 cases of Covid-19 have now been confirmed in the UK, including a clinician at a cancer treatment clinic.

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