Mass gatherings could be banned to fight coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:12 14 March 2020
Plans are under way to ban mass gatherings from next week as the government looks to implement more extreme measures in the fight against Covid-19.
Prime minister Boris Johnson had faced criticism for not taking such actions, despite similar steps being taken by other European countries as the pandemic worsens.
Emergency legislation will be published next week and there could also be a move towards more people working from home, a government source has said.
The announcement comes as the UK deals with a rising number of cases of the virus, increasing to 798, and a death toll of 11.
Earlier on Friday the World Health Organisation said Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic and US president Donald Trump indicated he might add the UK to a list of countries facing a US travel ban.
Scores of major sporting and cultural events, including Norwich City's Premier League clash with Southampton today and next month's London Marathon, have already been suspended, despite the government resisting calls to ban mass events in its latest guidance earlier this week.
Scotland had already announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.
Late on Friday 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.'
Meanwhile the government says it is 'striving tirelessly' to ensure the safety of prisons amid the coronavirus outbreak after campaigners urged officials to reveal how they would protect inmates.
Prisons minister Lucy Frazer said prison staff were working closely with the Department of Health and the NHS to 'manage challenges' and urged anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 to avoid visiting a relative behind bars.
It comes after Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, raised concerns that 'unhygienic' prisons could be a 'centre' for spreading coronavirus into the wider population.
The minister added that officials were 'taking steps to boost staff availability' should any prison officers need to self-isolate, to minimise the impact on jails.