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Boris Johnson to set out Government plan to tackle coronavirus spread

Whitehall departments will have a designated ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at Public Health England National Infection Service (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at Public Health England National Infection Service (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a laboratory at Public Health England National Infection Service (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Boris Johnson will set out the Government’s plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus, as he insisted ministers were “ready to take necessary steps” to contain the disease.

The Prime Minister said it is “highly likely” that the virus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, and sought to reassure the public that “every possible preparation” is being made.

He will launch the plan on Tuesday at a Downing Street press conference, alongside the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Measures are expected to include a “war room” being set up in the Cabinet Office to bring together communications experts and scientists from across Government, and the NHS to roll out a public information campaign.

Unnecessary travel may be discouraged and working from home encouraged if the virus spreads, as part of a “social distancing” strategy to delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year when the weather is warmer.

Retired doctors and nurses could be asked to return to work, and emergency indemnity coverage could be provided for healthcare workers.

Whitehall departments will have a designated ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus – such as on schools or businesses.

A major public information campaign will be launched later in the week setting out how the public can help to limit the spread of the virus, including washing hands regularly with soap and water.

And legislation allowing the Government to use extra powers to help control the virus is expected to go through Parliament by the end of the month.

Mr Johnson said: “It is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, which is why we’re making every possible preparation.

“We have agreed a plan, which I will set out in detail today, so if the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable.

“But we can all continue to do our bit to fight this virus – by washing our hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.”

PA