The British government unveiled its action plan to fight the spread of coronavirus. Top of the list is hand washing, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson says needs to be for the period of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
The 28-page document unveiled Tuesday sets out a raft of contingency plans should the situation deteriorate with large numbers of people infected.
Brits could be asked to work from home, families of the sick may need to be quarantined, and a series of social distancing measures enacted.
The report said: “Action that would be considered could include . . . school closures, encouraging greater home working, [and] reducing the number of large scale gatherings.”
The central advice is hand washing. The report says: “We will increase publicity about the need for good hygiene measures (hand washing, and catch it, bin it, kill it).”
Earlier in the week Johnson said: “Crucially, we must not forget what we can all do to fight this virus, which is to wash our hands with soap and water and, forgive me for repeating this, but . . . wash your hands with soap and hot water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. It’s simple advice but it’s the single most important thing we can do.”
The number of cases in the U.K. rose from 39 to 51 on Tuesday with the government warning up to a fifth of the workforce may be off-work sick. Globally around 90,000 people have been infected in 50 countries. Of this 3,000 people have died.
The government warned: “There could well be an increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly amongst vulnerable and elderly groups.”
Business lobby group the CBI warned: “Every business will face their own challenges on how to respond to this situation. Everyone is watching how this unfolds and employers will do all they can to inform and protect their staff and customers.”
Police may have to scale back crime fighting to concentrate on serious crimes and maintaining public order. This would be necessary to ensure they are able to maintain a level of service that fulfills their critical functions.
At hospitals some non-urgent care may be delayed to prioritize treatment. The contingency plan includes recalling leavers and retirees back to duty.
It said: “The U.K. remains in a high state of readiness to respond robustly to any disease outbreak, and our track record of success means that we can offer a high degree of assurance that we will be able to maximize the effectiveness of our health and care systems, and in doing so also respond effectively to the outbreak.”
The U.K. government has also additionally announced £20 million ($26 million) for Covid-19 research.
The country is a world leader in the field of outbreak modeling and data analytics. Imperial College London with partners has developed novel tools to prepare for infectious disease outbreaks, which include real time infectious disease models, allowing policy decisions to be made using the best possible data.
Earlier today the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point in the battle to combat the economic threat from coronavirus. This sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.75% higher but it has since fallen 1.27%.
Watch: Boris Johnson sets out the government’s coronavirus action plan