Coronavirus news live: Latest updates as health minister says virus sweeping country is ‘inevitable’

Boris Johnson will say there is “little doubt” the coronavirus will present a “significant challenge” for the UK as he chairs a Cobra meeting to discuss the government’s response to the outbreak.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has warned it was now “inevitable” the deadly virus would “become endemic” in the UK as 13 more cases of Covid-19 were announced, bringing the total number to 36. The Cobra meeting will bring together senior ministers and the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. Work will also start in the “war room” in the Cabinet office as experts come together to respond to public concerns about the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile the worldwide death toll from the disease has passed 3,000, with more than 80,000 cases worldwide. Several countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas have banned large gatherings and imposed stricter travel restrictions in an attempt to limit infections.

Follow the latest updates

‘Wash your hands is the national anthem,’ Jacob Rees-Mogg says

Arriving for the Cobra meeting, the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, advised people to “wash your hands”.

Speaking outside the Cabinet Office he said: “Coughs and sneezes catch diseases, put it in your handkerchief.

“Wash your hands is the national anthem.”

Iran toll update

Iran has said 66 people have died amid 1,501 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Islamic Republic.

Iran has the highest death toll from the virus outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Widespread transmission will see reduction in social contact

Prof Cosford added it was important that people remembered the coronvirus infection was mild in most cases.

“The vast majority of people will make a recovery from it and it is a relatively mild illness,” he said.

“Children and otherwise healthy adults seem to be at much lower risk of getting into serious complications you get with this sort of disease.

“It’s older people and people with severe underlying conditions that we will be particularly concerned about.”

He warned that there will come a point “where we reduce social contact if we see more widespread transmission.”

Asked whether it was okay still to offer handshakes, he said he thought so, but added that the next stage of dealing with the outbreak could involve asking “people to isolate themselves at home if there’s a member of their family who’s infected”.

He said: “We may well get to a position where we say carry on going to school, carry on going to work, but if you can work from home that’s a very sensible thing to do, and think of all the different ways you can reduce your social contact outside of those activities.”

Public urged to wash hands and throw away used tissues

Prof Paul Cosford was also interviewed for Radio 4’s Today programme, where he said it was increasingly likely there would be more widespread transmission of Covid-19 in the UK.

Public Health England’s emeritus medical director also called on the public to take simple steps such as washing their hands and throwing away used tissues.

He said: “I think the increase in number that we are seeing, coupled with the the increases in countries nearby in Europe and of course in south-east Asia, do make it much more likely we will get more widespread transmission in the UK.

“It’s still the case that the vast majority of the cases we’ve got in the UK, we can trace a link to countries where there’s infection and people returning from those countries, but we’ve not been able to identify that in every single case now, so that’s something we are looking at extremely carefully to understand where the source of those infections may be.

“I think we now have to expect there to be more widespread infection in the UK that we will need to deal with. We’ve got to be prepared for that, we’re not there yet but we’ve got to be prepared for it, and it will give us some challenges.”

New cases

Portugal has registered its first two cases of coronavirus, local TV reported.

One case was discovered in a man who had recently travelled to Italy and another one in a man who had returned from Spain, the SIC TV channel reported. Both were taken to hospital in Porto.

Nike closes European headquarters after employee tests positive

Nike will close its European headquarters in the Netherlands today and tomorrow after an employee was infected with the coronavirus, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Citing an internal email, ANP reported the office in Hilversum would be disinfected overnight. The employee was staying home in isolation for 14 days, it said.

Roughly 2,000 Nike employees from 80 countries work at the site. Dutch health authorities have reported 10 coronavirus infections since 28 February.

Andorra records first case

A 20 year-old man with mild symptoms who was recently in Italy has become the first coronavirus case registered in Andorra, the country’s government has announced.

The man was recently in Milan and was hospitalised on Saturday.

The tests have shown a positive infection, and he will remain in hospital for further tests and his immediate social circle will be monitored, the government said in a statement.

British woman jailed in Iran showing symptoms of coronavirus, husband says

A British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran is showing “all the symptoms” of coronavirus but is yet to be tested, her husband has said.

Richard Ratcliffe said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was desperately trying to get tested, but claimed the prison where she is being held is “obviously under orders” to not allow it.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Ratcliffe said: “It [coronavirus] has swept through the prison. There are prisoners showing all the symptoms of coronavirus, a cough, temperature, body pain all over, fatigue. Nazanin at the middle of the week was showing all these symptoms.

“The prison ran out of cleaning materials, disinfectants, it ran out of medicines. But of course the whole country has run out because it was blindsided. The prison is obviously under orders not to test anyone.”
Mr Ratcliffe said he last spoke to his wife on Saturday and she was “desperate” to get tested.

“The other prisoners were keeping away from her because she is showing all the symptoms,” he said.

German cases rise to 150

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 150 from 129 yesterday, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said.

More than half of the cases, 86, are in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where several schools and daycare centres will be closed today to try to prevent the spread of the virus after staff members tested positive.

Shadow health secretary would support shutting down cities

The shadow health secretary, Jonathon Ashworth, has said he would support shutting down cities to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Asked if he would support shutting down cities to prevent the spread within the UK on BBC Breakfast, Mr Ashworth said: “If the medical advice and the scientific advice is to take measures along those lines, of course we would support them.

He continued: “It would be a move by government so drastic that we hadn’t seen it. And I’m not sure how practical it could be in reality.

“However this virus is serious and appears to spread very easily and we need to contain it and slow down the spread. If the medical advice is to do something like that then of course we should support it.

“That is why I am keen, however, that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, comes to the House of Commons today after the Cobra meeting to update MPs on plans. We just need clarity from government.”

UK will see widespread infection ‘fairly soon’, Public Health England warns

The UK can expect to see widespread infection of coronavirus “fairly soon”, Public Health England’s emeritus medical director has warned.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Paul Cosford said: “The extent of infection we are seeing in other countries suggests it is likely that we will see more widespread infection in the UK and that is what we have to be prepared for.

“We should expect at times that might be quite challenging for us, it is therefore very important that we do everything we can to reduce the spread of infection.

“At the moment, the vast majority of cases we see in the UK are still linked to countries where there is more widespread infection, either in Italy or south east Asia.

“It is true to say there is a small number now where it is much more difficult to find that link, and that is leading us to think we may well see more widespread infection in the UK fairly soon.

“It could happen in the next few days or it could take a little longer.”

Louvre museum closed


The Louvre museum in Paris has shut its doors to the public early as management and workers held a meeting over the risks associated with the coronavirus.

A sign in multiple languages on the museum’s main entrance read: “Today the opening of the Louvre is delayed. We will inform you about a potential opening time as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding.”

South Korea reports 123 new cases

South Korea has reported 123 new coronavirus cases, taking the country’s total infections to 4,335, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing health authorities.

Member of Iranian council advising supreme leader dies

Iranian state radio has said a member of the council advising its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, has died after falling ill from the coronavirus.

Worldwide death toll tops 3,000

Over 3,000 people have been killed by the coronavirus worldwide and there have been almost 90,000 confirmed cases.

In Italy, which has the most cases in Europe, the number of infections doubled in 48 hours over the weekend. It now has 1,694 confirmed cases and has seen 34 deaths.

Health secretary does not rule out shutting down cities if outbreak escalates

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has admitted it was “inevitable” the coronavirus would continue to spread.

He said he would not rule out shutting down cities if the Covid-19 outbreak escalates.

New cases in UK bring total to 36

Scotland has declared its first case of coronavirus while 12 new patients were diagnosed in England on Sunday, bringing the total to 36.

Prime minister to chair emergency Cobra meeting

Boris Johnson will say there is “little doubt” the coronavirus will present a “significant challenge” for the UK, as the prime minister chairs a Cobra meeting about the virus for the first time.

The Cobra meeting will be attended by senior ministers as well as chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, as they ratify the g overnment’s proposed countermeasures. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is also expected to take part.

Mr Johnson is set to tell those at the meeting: “The number of coronavirus cases around the world is rising every day – and the UK is no exception.

“There now seems little doubt that it will present a significant challenge for our country.

“But we are well prepared, and the Government and the NHS will stop at nothing to fight this virus.

“This battle plan lays out in detail the measures we could use – if and when they are needed.”

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