Heath secretary Matt Hancock said “nothing is off the table” when asked if UK cities could be closed down as Britain battles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Hancock’s comments come as the confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the UK climbed to 35 after 12 new patients were diagnosed.
The government is considering all options if the outbreak escalates, said Hancock, including school closures or even isolating whole cities.
‘Huge economic and social downside’
A plan on how the government will combat Covid-19, if the outbreak becomes pandemic, will be published this week and could include banning large gatherings of people as part of “population distancing measures”.
Hancock told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Under the worst case scenario we would have to take some quite significant actions that would have social and economic disruption.”
When asked if the government is considering isolating cities, as China has, Hancock said: “There’s clearly a huge economic and social downside to that but we don’t take anything off the table at this stage because you have got to make sure you have all the tools available if necessary.”
New cases include people with ‘no relevant travel’
The 12 new coronavirus cases confirmed today (Sunday) are in Essex, London, West Yorkshire, Gloucester, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Chief medical officer Prof Chris Witty said three patients were close contacts of a known case of the virus that has been transmitted in the UK.
The patient confirmed in Essex had “no relevant travel” to suggest how they contracted the virus while six of the new cases had recently returned from Italy and the other two from Iran.
A Surrey man became the first person infected by coronavirus in the UK on Friday. He is being treated at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and had no recent travel to any countries.
The Department of Health report that 11,750 people have so far been tested across the UK (up to 9am today, March 1)
Bristol worker tests positive in Hong Kong
A Chinese man who works in Bristol has also tested positive for the virus after flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong on February 27, reports the Telegraph.
The 35-year-old’s temperature was recorded as normal on arrival but he developed a cough and fever on February 29 and has now been isolated at a hospital in Shenzhen.
Two colleagues at his work premises in Bristol have reported a cough and fever and a further 93 close contacts of the man have been identified.
Retired doctors and nurses could be asked back to fight virus
Part of the government’s plan to contain coronavirus could see newly retired nurses and doctors being asked to return to work with the NHS, a report in the Guardian states.
People could also be asked to work from home if the outbreak spreads, while every government department is set to have a minister focused on tackling the outbreak.
A public health campaign to educate the population will be led by a team of experts.