BORIS Johnson will resist pressure from Ireland today to close the nation’s schools – as he chairs an emergency COBRA meeting today on the coronavirus crisis.
The PM is likely to say Britain will now go into the delay phase as the number of cases of the killerbug skyrockets, but school closures are unlikely to happen today.
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He is leading an emergency meeting this lunchtime, with other ministers and the nation’s top scientific experts.
They will make crunch decisions today on whether to take vital action which will affect the lives of millions of Brits, but No10 has dismissed suggestions of following other countries.
It comes just hours after Ireland announced the country would go into lock-down to try and stop the spread of the deadly bug – with all schools, public buildings and nurseries shut.
And Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would recommend that gatherings of more than 500 be banned from next week.
Italy has closed all shops apart from food stores and pharmacies, and Denmark has shut schools too.
The PM is under growing pressure to follow suit and implement strong measures to protect the rest of the country, but the Government are indicating they won’t go that far.
Two more elderly Brits have died from coronavirus bringing the UK toll to eight after the number of cases jumped to 460.
The Chancellor said there are no plans for the UK to follow suit with such draconian measures at the moment – even as experts warn it’s only a matter of time before the virus spread so widely here.
In a thinly veiled swipe against the US President, he told Radio 4 this morning: “The advice we’re getting is that there isn’t evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of the infection.
“We are always guided by the science as we make our decisions.”
And he said on schools: “At this stage school closures are not something that’s being advised as the right step.”
No10 added today: “It is not the current position that we should halt flights.
“The advice we have been given is that it is not a step they are currently recommending in the UK.”
Downing Street indicated Britain’s advice would not be the same as other countries in Europe.
The PM’s spokesperson said: “We believe that we are taking our decisions bases on the best scientific advice that is available.
“We follow our own advice. They [Ireland] will do the same.”
School closures and the banning of large events are still on the cards in future, however, as they were part of the Government’s four-part battle plan last week.
But any decisions on them are unlikely to be taken today.
The Chancellor said this morning that working from home and protecting the vulnerable would be the first advice to come out to the general public.
Care homes could place extra restrictions on visitors to protect the elderly, who are most likely to die from the killer bug.
The spread of the virus is predicted to peak shortly over Easter with around 50 per cent of infections expected to come within a three-week period.
Testing will be escalated to around 10,000 people every day as the virus grips the nation.