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Virus Outbreak: UK to boost measures after coronavirus cases jump

‘CALL TO ARMS’: The new measures could see people older than 70 told to stay in isolation for up to four months, a broadcaster said, as the death toll doubled to 21.

The British government was expected to accelerate efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak after confirmed cases in the country surged much faster than expected, the Times of London reported yesterday. Deaths in the country doubled to 21 on Saturday and the number of cases jumped by 342, an almost 43 percent increase. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce measures to encourage the elderly and those most at risk to stay at home, as well as for entire families to self-isolate if any member shows any symptoms, the Times said. The government initially expected to take these steps in two weeks’ time, but is hastening its plans after the jump in cases, the newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. Johnson was expected to chair a meeting yesterday, after which the measures could be announced, the paper said.

Army chiefs might order forces to build field hospitals and deploy military police on the country’s streets in the event of any civil unrest, the report said. Europe has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO officials said on Friday, and countries have taken unprecedented measures. Britain has attempted to chart its own path through the crisis, offering a less aggressive approach that relies on taking more serious steps at the right time. The country’s newest measures could see people older than 70 told to stay in isolation for as long as four months, ITV said, citing an unidentified senior person in government. The step is an attempt to reduce the load on a health system already under strain.

The plan is aimed at making sure the British National Health System is not overwhelmed “to save lives and to prevent hideous choices having to be made,” an unidentified person told ITV. Johnson’s administration is also concerned about the demand for medical equipment, including respirators for those who develop more serious symptoms from the virus. Writing in the Telegraph, British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said the government is issuing a “call to arms,” asking manufacturers to “transform their production lines to make ventilators.” Hancock confirmed that the government would put forward a bill this week to give it emergency powers it said it needs to tackle an outbreak. Meanwhile, British food retailers have written a joint letter to their customers asking them to “buy responsibly” in the wake of shoppers stockpiling over fears about the pandemic. In an extraordinary development, 12 of the UK’s biggest grocers are publishing advertisements in national newspapers yesterday and today.

Entitled “Working to Feed the Nation,” the letter reassures shoppers about steps being taken to ensure adequate supplies in stores and asks them to be considerate. “We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together,” the letter says. The supermarkets behind the letter include the “Big Four” — Tesco, J Sainsbury, WM Morrison and Asda Group — as well as the discounters Aldi and Lidl. Other retailers that have signed up include Marks & Spencer, online grocer Ocado and Waitrose. Tesco, the UK’s largest grocer, has already had to restrict sales of antibacterial products, dried pasta, long-life milk, children’s medicines, water and tinned vegetables to five items a person in stores.

News source: Bloomberg