Friday, 28 February 2020

FA Cup, Grand National and London Marathon postponed under emergency plan to contain coronavirus

Emergency plans are being drawn up by health officials to contain the coronavirus, which could see schools closed for at least two months and major sporting events, gigs and music festivals cancelled.

As cases of the deadly virus in Britain hit 16 last night, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty revealed an unprecedented ban on large public gatherings could be required to fight a global pandemic.

The most extreme measure could be to mirror the decision to shut Japan's entire school system, which will close from Monday for a month until April.  A UK shutdown would see millions of parents, including key workers such as surgeons, nurses and paramedics, forced to stay at home to care for their children.

Prof Whitty admitted it is 'just a matter of time' until coronavirus spreads more widely and quicker through the UK - and the fightback could include 'reducing mass gatherings and school closures', with Premier League and FA Cup matches either under threat or played behind closed doors.

The London Marathon and the Grand National in April could also be at risk because of the large number of spectators - and this summer's Euro 2020 tournament, which is being played in cities across the continent including London, Glasgow and Rome - the capital of coronavirus-hit Italy - is under review.

Theatre performances, gigs and music festivals such as Glastonbury could also be banned or pared back if the UK fails to get a grip on the crisis.

There were three new cases in the UK yesterday. Although it is not confirmed, it appears the mother of a child at a Derbyshire school has tested positive after coming back from Tenerife, leading to the closure of Burbage Primary School in Buxton.

A second patient, believed to be a man from Surrey, was diagnosed yesterday after returning from Milan after a ski trip to the Italian Alps. And Northern Ireland had its first case last night - a woman who had come back from northern Italy via Dublin. 

50 of the 168 British guests at the Tenerife hotel at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak were allowed to leave last night before their two-week quarantine was completed sparking fears they could bring the disease home with them. Jet2 is refusing to fly them home until mid-March.  

The NHS has said it is well prepared for the growing threat but senior doctors have admitted that they could have to ration care and focus on those most likely to survive and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'The NHS would find it hard to cope if the pandemic took off'.

Under protocol dubbed 'Three Wise Men', a hospital's most senior consultants would meet daily and decide which patients would get beds and ventilators based on those most likely to recover. It means that vulnerable people such as the elderly and already seriously ill would be given less priority than younger and healthier patients.  

The crisis has rocked world financial markets and London's FTSE100, which immediately dropped three per cent when it opened yesterday having had £152billion wiped off its value this week taking it to a low level last seen in the 2008 financial crash. Today Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the economy has already been hit and growth could be downgraded.


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