“Drastic” plans to respond to the coronavirus pandemic have been set out by the Government.
Here are some questions answered from the Downing Street briefing on coronavirus.
– Who will this affect?
– What will it mean for the general population?
Boris Johnson said: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.”
The Prime Minister urged people to stay away from pubs, clubs, theatres and “other such social venues”.
Where possible, people should work from home.
He added that mass gatherings would no longer be supported by emergency workers.
– What is ‘whole household isolation’?
If one person in a house has symptoms, including a continuous cough or fever, the whole family should stay at home for 14 days.
They should avoid even going to the shops to get essentials, the Prime Minister said.
People should only go out for exercise and ensure they do not come into contact with people while doing so.
– What about people who live on their own?
The period of self-isolation for people who live on their own remains at seven days.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said: “If you are ill with symptoms of the new, persistent cough or fever you isolate for seven days. If you lived on your own, that’s what you would do.
“Now what we’re saying is if anybody in the household gets it, the whole household stays together isolated for 14 days. The reason for that is the other people may pick it up over five days or seven days and then they’ve got seven days to have it and get better.”
Mr Johnson added: “It’s the difference between individual isolation and household isolation.”
– What does it mean for vulnerable people?
In coming days, everyone classed as vulnerable will be asked to ensure they are “largely shielded from social contact” for around 12 weeks, or possibly longer.
This includes people over the age of 70, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions.
– Which illnesses will this include?
Government guidance says those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. This group includes adults under 70 who would qualify for a flu jab due to an underlying health condition.
They include people with chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis; chronic heart disease, such as heart failure; chronic kidney disease; chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis; chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy; diabetes; problems with the spleen, such as sickle cell disease or if the spleen has been removed; a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and Aids, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy; or being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above).
– What did the Prime Minister say about healthy older people?
“Many people, including millions of fit and active people over 70, may feel that there is something excessive about these measures, but I have to say that I believe they are overwhelmingly worth it to slow the spread of the disease, reduce the peak, to save life, minimise suffering and give our NHS the chance to cope,” Mr Johnson said.
– Why pregnant women?
Prof Whitty said that including pregnant women in this group was a “precautionary measure” as experts are “early in our understanding of this virus”.
– What about children?
Although older people are at a higher risk of being infected, children can still catch the illness, the World Health Organisation said.
It added: “While the vast majority have experienced mild disease, some have experienced severe or critical disease and some young adults and one child, that we are aware of, has died.”
– Are schools staying open?
Schools remain open at the moment. The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said other measures may be necessary – including school closures – at some point.
“Those things need to be done at the right time,” he said.
– Is any part of the country worst affected?
The Prime Minister said the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than others. “It looks as though London is a few weeks ahead,” he said.
– How long will this go on for?
Prof Whitty said measures to tackle the spread of the disease would need to be in place for a “prolonged period”.
“This is going to go on for some time,” he said. “We should not be under any illusions that ‘if we just do this for a couple of weeks that is sufficient’.