The UK has stepped up its fight against coronavirus after the government officially accepted the outbreak can no longer be contained.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the change following a COBRA meeting chaired by Boris Johnson – and revealed mass gatherings will be cancelled in Scotland from next week.
Moving into the 'delay' phase means the UK is now on its second of four phases to deal with the virus. It means officials may soon give up on tracing each patient's contact and instead focus on "social distancing".
The objective is to slow down the spread of coronavirus and reduce numbers infected at the peak after the number of UK cases soared by 134 to 590 today.
Ten people in the UK have now died from COVID-19. The latest deaths were of an 89-year-old at Charing Cross Hospital in London and a woman in her sixties at Queen's Hospital in Romford. Both had underlying health conditions.
From Friday, anyone with symptoms indicative of the virus (a dry cough and fever) should self-isolate for seven days, Ms Sturgeon announced after the meeting of the emergency committee.
Ms Sturgeon said another key focus will be to protect groups in society who are more at risk.
"The decision has been taken that we have now moved from a contain phase, into the delay phase", she said in a press conference.
This would mean the introduction of social distancing measures such as restricting public gatherings and issuing more widespread advice to stay at home.
There is also expected to be more specific preventative advice for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Speaking moments before a Downing Street briefing from the Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer, Scotland's First Minister said: "The objective is to seek to slow down the spread of the virus, to reduce the numbers… infected at any one time."
"That is clearly important in trying to alleviate the pressure that is placed at any one time on our NHS."
She added it would protect groups that are more at risk of serious complications. "The vast majority of people who get this infection will suffer mild symptoms," she added.
Ms Sturgeon said mass gatherings in Scotland will be cancelled from next week.
She said: “We have looked carefully at the situation and come to the decision today in the Scottish government that we will, from the start of next week, advise the cancellation of mass gatherings of over 500 people that have the potential to have an impact on our frontline emergency services.
“I should stay at this stage I am articulating a Scottish government position, not a UK-wide position.”
She stressed the move is not because of the risk of the virus spreading – which is not “significantly” higher in large events.
Instead she said she took the decision because of the “considerable” pressure on public services – and because it was important for public messaging about staying at home to be “consistent”.
The shift in British policy came as Donald Trump dramatically escalated the US response to the coronavirus pandemic despite having previously played down the outbreak.
The US President slapped a 30-day travel ban on continental Europe – excluding the UK and Ireland – even though there is effectively free movement across the continent.
Mr Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the spread of the virus and saying US clusters were "seeded" by European travellers.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has also today announced the country would go into lockdown as of 6pm – with schools, universities and public offices closing.
Dr Varadkar: "We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and this is uncharted territory for us."
Chancellor Rishi Sunak played down the prospect of the UK imposing similar travel restrictions, but acknowledged the US decision could have a knock-on effect on the British economy.
The Cobra meeting comes after ten people with Covid-19 were confirmed to have died in the UK, while the total number of positive cases rose to 460.
A Cabinet minister, who has not been named, was self-isolating while awaiting a test result after coming into contact with health minister Nadine Dorries.
Several other MPs were understood to be staying at home prompting alarm at Westminster, although ministers said Parliament would stay open.
The FTSE 100 index of leading London-listed companies fell more than 5% in early trading following the World Health Organisation's declaration of a pandemic.
Experts have warned that closing schools could increase the risks for elderly grandparents and reduce the number of NHS workers available for the frontline fight against the disease.
Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said it was still too early to say whether steps taken in Ireland were a "sensible precaution or an overreaction for the current stage of the epidemic".
He added: "Different countries are at different stages of the epidemic so what one country should do will not apply to others, we need to be guided by the local epidemiology and the science.
"This is why currently the UK has not followed these measures. Schools will close soon for the Easter holidays which will give some idea of the impact of this measure. Parents have already planned for childcare during these weeks.
"Closing schools has a number of known consequences. It might make the epidemic or ability to manage the consequences worse."
He said closing schools could lead to a reduction in the health and social care workforce as people have to look after children.
It could also lead to an increase in grandparents delivering childcare.
"This age group is at much greater risk," he said.
He added that closing schools may lead to the increased movement of children to different places across the UK.
"Children do not seem to get serious illness with Covid-19 and we do not yet know what role they play in significantly spreading the virus," he said.
"The UK should adopt UK-appropriate measures and not give in to the demand for something to be done otherwise this will result in inappropriate actions at the wrong time."
Dr Thomas House, reader in mathematical statistics at the University of Manchester, said: "Deciding when to take action such as shutting schools is difficult.
"On the one hand, it helps to contain the spread of infection, but on the other it creates wider problems in society, like missing out on education.
"And if the closure is not carefully managed then children may spend more time with, and thereby increase the infection risk of, their grandparents, who appear to be more vulnerable to complications from coronavirus ."
On Thursday, Durham University said from March 16, all classroom teaching will end and be replaced with online lectures as much as possible for the final week of term.
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