Coronavirus: Who should stay at home and for how long?

17 Mars, 2020, 09:48 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

The Prime Minister set out the need for "drastic action" to tackle the "fast growth" of coronavirus across the United Kingdom as his medical advisers said Britain may now be just three weeks behind Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, with London further advanced than the rest of the UK.

He said the advice about avoiding social contact was 'particularly important for people over 70, pregnant women and people with some health conditions.

"Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel", he said in a message to everyone in Britain. It was not clear whether the baby contracted the virus from the mother, or after being born.

Among the other measures, which he described as "very draconian", Johnson warned that people should avoid "pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues", and that households with Coronavirus symptoms should self-impose 14-day isolation.

But the PM stopped short of ordering venues to close, instead saying he hoped they would take a responsible approach.

Johnson said elderly and vulnerable people would have to begin self-isolating for "around 12 weeks" from the weekend.

"This announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good, and hundreds of thousands of job losses", UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said.

"And if that is not possible you should do what you can to limit social contact when you leave the house to get supplies".

Health minister Matt Hancock told parliament that non-time sensitive, elective surgery would be cancelled or postponed.

In a three-pronged approach, the first recommendation is for all household members to stay at home for 14 days if anyone displays symptoms of the disease - a persistent new cough or fever.

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The pound sterling fell to its lowest against the USA dollar since October while Johnson was speaking, down two-thirds of a cent on the day. This economic and financial crisis, though, is not like the 2008 financial crisis, Johnson said.

Mr Johnson added that "if we can get the disease under control in the way that we're describing, if we can flatten that peak and it starts eventually to decline" then there was "absolutely no reason why economies worldwide should not come roaring back".

The British government has faced criticism for no longer testing all suspected cases of coronavirus, and Whitty said testing was critical and Britain would scale it up.

Epidemiologist William Hanage, who researches and teaches the evolution of infectious diseases at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health, said when he heard about the United Kingdom government's herd immunity plan, he thought it was a joke.

The UK death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has hit 53, with more than 1,500 cases.

In the London press conference it was stated that at-risk groups with the most serious health conditions will be asked by the weekend to stay home to be "shielded" from social contact for 12 weeks, however in Cardiff it was noted that could be longer.

"Everybody sees that this is going to be potentially a severe blow for the economy", he said.

And the right moment, as we've always said, is to do it when it is most effective, when we think it can make the biggest difference to slowing the spread of the disease, reducing the number of victims, reducing the number of fatalities.

But Johnson said that "on balance it's much better if we can keep schools open", amid concerns of the impact on the workforce, particularly healthcare staff, but said this would be kept under review. The Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said other measures may be necessary - including school closures - at some point.

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