The Prime Minister has said coronavirus is the 'worst public health problem for a generation.'

He said it is wrong to liken Covid-19 to flu, because with flu, we have some immunity.

The number of cases in Oxfordshire have doubled in the last 24 hours, from eight to 17.

In a statement this afternoon, the Prime Minister said:

  • Schools will NOT be closing at the moment - unless specifically told to
  • The government is considering banning major public events
  • We have moved onto the delay stage 
  • It's important to delay the peak of the virus as long as possible so that the NHS has time to prepare
  • Older people should NOT travel internationally (ie, go on cruises)
  • You should continue washing your hands and following the PHE advice

The Prime Minister also added that unfortunately, 'more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.'

He said: "This country will get through this epidemic, just as we have got through many tougher times before, if we look after each other."

The aim is to delay the peak of the virus so that the peak reaches us in the summer months, when the NHS is under less strain. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific advisor to the government, says the aim is the typical pattern of a pandemic.

He says now is not the right time to ask everyone to self-isolate. 

The chief medical advisor Prof Chris Whitty says 'the delay has already begun as a result of the work [of the NHS] and people who came forward for testing.'

He adds that 'this is going to be a long-haul' and if we self-isolate too early, we risk fatigue. 

Anybody with a temperature or a new cough needs to stay at home for seven days.