Boris Johnson has called on the country to stop non-essential contact and travel to help curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Prime Minister pleaded for adoption of urgent new measures to combat the global pandemic.
Addressing the nation Mr Johnson said: “As we said last week, our objective is to delay and flatten the peak of the epidemic by bringing forward the right measures at the right time, so that we minimise suffering and save lives.
“And everything we do is based scrupulously on the best scientific advice.
“Last week we asked everyone to stay at home if you had one of two key symptoms: a high temperature or a new and continuous cough.
“Today, we need to go further, because according to SAGE [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies], it looks as though we’re now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve.
“And without drastic action, cases could double every five or six days.”
Mr Johnson’s first port of call was to ask anyone displaying symptoms to stay at home for at least 14 days.
“That means that if possible you should not go out even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others,” he said.
“If necessary, you should ask for help from others for your daily necessities. And if that is not possible, then you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.”
He then moved on to asking citizens to postpone travel and avoid unessential contact with friends and family.
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“We need people to start working from home where they possibly can,” he said. “And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.
“It goes without saying, we should all only use the NHS when we really need to. And please go online rather than ringing NHS 111.
“Now, this advice about avoiding all unnecessary social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.
“And if you ask, why are we doing this now, why now, why not earlier, or later? Why bring in this very draconian measure? The answer is that we are asking people to do something that is difficult and disruptive of their lives.
“And the right moment, as we’ve always said, is to do it when it is most effective, when we think it can make the biggest difference to slowing the spread of the disease, reducing the number of victims, reducing the number of fatalities. And as we take these steps we should be focusing on the most vulnerable.”
Mr Johnson admitted that it is “now clear” that the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than in others.
And it looks as though London is now a “few weeks ahead”.
“To relieve the pressure on the London health system and to slow the spread in London, it’s important that Londoners now pay special attention to what we are saying about avoiding non-essential contact, and to take particularly seriously the advice about working from home, and avoiding confined spaces such as pubs and restaurants.
“Over the last few days, I have been comparing notes and talking to leaders around the world and I can tell you that the UK is now leading a growing global campaign amongst all our friends and allies, whether in the G7, the G20, the UN, the IMF – all those bodies in which we play a significant role.”
We’re leading a campaign to fight back against this disease.