The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK has risen to 273.
It is an increase of 64 from yesterday, when the total stood at 209. Two people who have tested positive for the disease have died in the UK so far.
Earlier this morning, the total of confirmed infections had risen to 211 with another two cases announced in Wales.
Overall, 23,513 people have been tested for the disease with the vast majority coming back negative.
The Department of Health is giving daily updates of the number of new infections, tweeting out the figure at 2pm.
A student at Oxford University has been confirmed to have the disease, but they ‘did not attend any university or college events after they felt ill, when they subsequently self-isolated’.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged to give ‘whatever is necessary’ to the NHS in the fight against the virus, which was first identified in China and has since spread to dozens of countries around the world.
Calls to the NHS 111 service have increased by more than a third compared with the same period last year, with 120,000 extra calls in the first week of March, the Department of Health said.
Five hundred additional initial call responders have been trained to handle the higher demand.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We will do all we can to contain coronavirus, but, as we know, Covid-19 is spreading across the world, so I want to ensure Government is doing everything in its power to be ready to delay and mitigate this threat.
‘Public safety is my top priority. Responding to coronavirus is a massive national effort and I’m working with colleagues across government to ensure we have a proportionate emergency Bill, with the right measures to deal with the impacts of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak.
‘We plan for the worst and work for the best, and the NHS is working 24/7 to fight this virus. Calls to NHS 111 have increased by more than a third and we have already put in place 500 extra staff to help with this increase.
‘Every person has a role to play in managing the spread of Covid-19 – whether that’s washing your hands more often for 20 seconds or catching your sneezes.’
UK government’s coronavirus action plan
The key points from the announcement, made on 3 March, are:
– If police lose ‘significant staff’ numbers to illness, they would ‘concentrate ‘on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order’.
– In a ‘stretching scenario’, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks.
– Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as potentially their own illness and caring responsibilities. Supporting staff welfare ‘will be critical’ for businesses.
– The UK has stockpiles of medicines for the NHS, plus protective clothing and equipment for medical staff.
– The public can help delay the spread of the virus by washing hands with soap regularly, not spreading misinformation and relying on trusted sources. They should also ensure family vaccines are up to date and check on family, friends and neighbours. They should also check Foreign Office advice before travelling abroad and be understanding of the pressures the health service is under.
– The public will be asked to accept that ‘the advice for managing Covid-19 for most people will be self-isolation at home and simple over the counter medicines’.
– If coronavirus becomes established, there will be a focus on essential services and helping those ‘most at risk to access the right treatment’.
– During the mitigation phase, when the virus is much more widespread, ‘pressures on services and wider society may become significant and clearly noticeable’.
– The Ministry of Defence will provide support as needed, including to essential services.
– There will be increased Government communication with Parliament, the public and the media if the virus becomes more widespread.
– All Government departments to have a lead person for coronavirus.
– If the virus takes hold, social distancing strategies could include school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings and closing other educational settings.
– It is possible that an outbreak or pandemic of Covid-19 could come in multiple waves.
– Non-urgent operations and other procedures could be cancelled, and hospital discharges monitored to free-up beds, with appropriate care in people’s homes.
– Hospital worker shifts could be altered and leavers or retirees called ‘back to duty’.
– Measures exist to help businesses with short-term cash flow problems.
– There is a distribution strategy for sending out key medicines and equipment to NHS and social care.
– This strain of coronavirus is new and people have a lack of immunity to it, meaning ‘Covid-19 has the potential to spread extensively’.
– Everyone is susceptible to catching the disease and thus it is ‘more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected’.
– There could be an ‘increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable and elderly groups’.
– While most people will suffer mild to moderate symptoms, similar to seasonal flu, some will need hospital care due to pneumonia developing.
– Young children can become infected and ‘suffer severe illness’, but overall the illness is less common in the under-20s.