Mass gatherings set to be banned in UK from next week as Government tries to halt coronavirus spread
Mass gatherings in the UK are expected to be banned from next weekend as the Government steps up its response to the coronavirus crisis.
A host of sporting and cultural events have already been shelved this week in wake of the pandemic.
But ministers have so far stopped short of imposing curbs on large gatherings, including ordering school closures, in favour of asking those with symptoms to self-isolate for seven days.
In a significant shift, a Whitehall source said: “Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.
“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home."
They added: “There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible. We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.
“For example, we are concerned about the burden large events put on public services - including the health service and the police - from dealing with Coronavirus.
“Officials are working with industry bodies to identify how to support businesses that will be affected by this decision.”
Emergency legislation which will be brought forward by the Government next week will meanwhile hand ministers the power to stop mass gatherings and compensation affected organisations.
In the UK alone the number of confirmed cases of the virus rose to 798 on Friday and a total of 11 people have died.
All elite football in Britain has already been suspended until at least 3 April.
In Rugby, the Six Nations Championships have yet to be cancelled with only matches at this stage being postponed.
The World Health Organisation’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has stressed that all possible action should be taken to combat the virus, saying: “Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all.”
Meanwhile Labour has urged the Government to do more to explain why its approach to tackling the illness is different from some other countries.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “Despite my repeated calls on four occasions in the last fortnight for the Government to work internationally to co-ordinate a response to the coronavirus, there has been no leadership and no action from either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor.
“It seems Number 10 is following Donald Trump’s lead yet again. We are saying to Boris Johnson, bluntly, get off your backside and show some international leadership. That is what UK Prime Ministers of all political colours have traditionally done.”