The most dangerous period of the coronavirus, which is the “worst public health crisis for a generation”, is “some weeks away”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared.
The PM was addressing a press conference at Downing Street following an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday afternoon.
The containment stage has finished today, with efforts now focused on delaying the peak of the crisis, which could be approximately four weeks away.
The UK’s Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, who also addressed the press conference, says the aim is not to prevent people from contracting COVID-19, but to mitigate a massive surge in cases, which is why he says schools should remain open, for now.
Mr Vallance says between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK will already have the virus and that “it is not possible to stop everyone getting it and not helpful, as we need to build immunity”.
The UK’s chief medical officer, Chris Witty, also stressed how it is all about timing.
“If you move too early, people get fatigued. This is a long haul,” said Mr Witty.
Mr Johnson began his press conference by saying he chaired an emergency meeting with ministers from across the UK.
“It is clear that coronavirus continues and will continue to spread across the world and our country over the next few months,” he said.
“We have done what can be done to contain disease, which has bought us valuable time.
“But it is now a global pandemic and the worst public health crisis for a generation.”
He added: “I must level with you, the British public, more families will lose their loved ones before their time.”
“The most dangerous period is not now, but some weeks away, depending how far it spreads.”
Mr Johnson says they are only “considering the question of banning major events, including sporting fixtures” – not because of the spread of the virus, but because of the burden it puts on public services.
New measures in place include:
– Staying at home for seven days if you have, however mild, a new continuous cough or higher temperature
– Advise all those over-70s not to go on cruises
– Advise against international school trips