People told to stop ALL non-essential contact with others amid coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 17:24 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:28 16 March 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson made the announcement during a press conference. Picture: PA

Prime minister Boris Johnson made the announcement during a press conference. Picture: PA

People have been told that they must stop all non-essential contact with others in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, the prime minister has 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.

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

As such he said “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact and to stop all non-essential travel” as he urged people to work from home and avoid pubs, clubs and theatres.

Anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or a temperature should stay at home for 14 days, he added.

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.

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

The prime minister added: “We want to ensure that this period of shielding, this period of maximum protection, coincides with the peak of the disease and it is now clear that the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than in others.”

He added: “Lastly, it remains true - as we said in the last few weeks - that this sort of transmissions of the disease at mass gatherings such as sporting events are relatively low, but obviously, logically, as we advise against unnecessary social contact of all kinds, it’s right that we should extend that advice to mass gatherings as well.

“And so we’ve also got to ensure that we have the critical workers we need that might otherwise be deployed for those gatherings, to deal with those emergencies.

“So from tomorrow we will no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers in the way that we normally do.”

Mr 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.”

Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief scientific advisor, said the “very profound” changes to social distancing would be very difficult for people - but would enable the NHS to cope with the effect of the potential increased number of cases.

He stressed the “great majority” of people would recover from the illness.

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However he said the overall aim of the measures is to reduce the potential death rate.

Prof Whitty said if one person in a household starts to display symptoms, “the whole household stays at home”.

He added: “People need to think through the practicalities of their own position.

“The reason for this is that they are helping to stop (coronavirus) being transmitted across the community.”

He added social restrictions would be “very difficult for people to maintain” but they would be “doing it to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed”.

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