Coronavirus live blog as it happened: Government discourages mass gatherings and encourages over 70s to avoid social contact

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below.

Thursday, 19th March 2020, 5:39 pm
Shoppers across the country have begun stockpiling household items over shortages fears (Getty Images)

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We will be providing live updates until 5pm

Coronavirus live blog, March 16

Last updated: Thursday, 01 January, 1970, 01:00

PM: Work from home if you can

He also says that the government is no longer in support of mass gatherings. 

The Prime Minister said people should start working from home "where they possibly can".

"You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues," he said.

"This advice about avoiding all social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions."

CSO: school closures "may be necessary", but not at this stage

Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance has said that it "may be necessary" to close schools, but only "at the right" stage of the outbreak. 

Vallance went on to defend the government's measures saying that stricter measures had been implemented at an earlier stage than "some" other countries. 

He says: "This is not a series of small interventions. You would anticipate that this could have a dramatic effect to reduce the peak and to reduce death rates," he said.

"They are not easy but they are important and they will have the effect if we all do it. 

"This is a matter for us to take accountability to make sure we help each other, protect ourselves and protect the NHS."

CSO: school closures "may be necessary", but not at this stage

Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance has said that it "may be necessary" to close schools, but only "at the right" stage of the outbreak. 

Vallance went on to defend the government's measures saying that stricter measures had been implemented at an earlier stage than "some" other countries. 

He says: "This is not a series of small interventions. You would anticipate that this could have a dramatic effect to reduce the peak and to reduce death rates," he said.

"They are not easy but they are important and they will have the effect if we all do it. 

"This is a matter for us to take accountability to make sure we help each other, protect ourselves and protect the NHS."

CSO: UK four weeks behind Italy

The CSO has said that the UK is three weeks behind Italy on "the curve", days after saying the UK was four weeks behind the country which has recorded the most coronavirus cases outside of China. 

"At the early stages in an outbreak, the numbers are quite small so actually the precision with which you can predict exactly where you are is low.

"I said perhaps we were four-weeks behind where Italy was, I think the new numbers suggest we're maybe more like three-weeks in terms of that."

He added: "Importantly, it looks like we're on the fast upswing or just about to get there and that's the reason to want to get in quite quickly with these measures."

349 deaths in last 24 hours in Italy

349 more deaths have been recorded in Italy in the last 24 hours.

CMO: 'we're in for the long haul'

Asked how long the fight against coronavirus could go on for, Chris Whtty says this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. 

Whitty says people must realise that "we're in for the long haul".

PM: "perfectly obvious" that coronavirus will deliver "a severe blow" to the economy

The PM has said that it is “perfectly obvious”that the coronavirus will deliver a "severe blow" to the economy.

He said there is “no reason why economies worldwide should not come roaring back”.

CSO: chances of catching coronavirus twice "rare"

Asked whether a person can get coronavirus twice, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: "In any infectious disease there are cases where people can catch something again, they're rare.

"There's nothing to suggest that this is a common occurrence in this disease but we are learning as we go along."

Professor Chris Whitty added: "Even in diseases which do not have long-lasting immunity there's usually a short period of immunity and that's enough for a season, an epidemic in the initial phases - so I think it is important to differentiate between that and long-lived immunity.

"Of course if people don't induce very-long-lived immunity that makes the idea of a vaccine less certain so I think we need to be aware of that and we'll be watching this very carefully."

PM press conference summary

A quite extraordinary change in tack from the government.

To summarise

  • Anyone who lives with anyone who has a cough or temperature should stay at home for 14 days
  • Over 70s should avoid unnecessary social contact
  • Government no longer supports mass gatherings
  • Public should start avoiding pubs, clubs and other social venues and refrain from non-essential contact.
  • Start working at home
  • School closures not yet ruled out
  • Only use emergency services when necessary
  • UK's overall and singular aim is to reduce deaths
  • New measures could last months
  • UK approaching fast growth part of pandemic "curve"

UK death toll increases to 53

The number of deaths in the UK caused by coronavirus has increased to 53

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