The number of UK cases of coronavirus has increased to 51, the Health Secretary has confirmed.
Matt Hancock told MPs: “The situation facing the courtly is increasingly serious. Globally and at home the number of cases continues to rise. As of 9am today there were 51 confirmed cases in the UK.
“And it’s becoming more likely that we'll see widespread transmission.
““If the number of global cases continues to rise, especially in Europe, the scientific advice is that we may not be able to contain this virus indefinitely.”
The latest update comes after Boris Johnson outlined the Government’s action plan for dealing with the outbreak.
Working from home
Johnson said the outbreak could lead to a fifth of workers being absent, cause the police to drop low-priority cases and force the NHS to delay non-urgent care. Police may only deal with serious crime if there is mass COVID-19 outbreak.
The 27-page document sets out the UK-wide response to Covid-19 amid widespread concerns about the impact the virus will have on people’s wellbeing, the economy and public services.
Measures aimed at delaying the spread of the virus could include school closures, “reducing the number of large-scale gatherings” and encouraging greater home working.
The Government’s response is in four stages: containing the outbreak, delaying its spread and mitigating the impact of the disease once it becomes established, and alongside that, a research programme is aimed at improving diagnostics and treatment for the disease.
Johnson stressed it was “highly likely” the number of coronavirus cases in the UK will rise.
He said: “Let me be absolutely clear that for the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus, this will be a mild disease from which they will speedily and fully recover, as we have already seen.
“But I fully understand public concern, your concern, about the global spread of the virus and it is highly likely that we will see a growing number of UK cases.”
Sales of handwash soar
Sales of hand sanitiser in supermarkets more than tripled last month as worried customers flocked to protect themselves from coronavirus.
Sales soared by 255% during February, according to new data from Kantar Worldpanel.
Meanwhile, liquid soap sales increased 7% and household cleaning products rose 10%.
However, it was just part of an overall upward trend, with supermarket sales increasing by 0.7% in the 12 weeks to February 23 – the fastest increase since November last year.
What about travel?
Banning travel to certain countries because of the coronavirus will make “no difference” if the outbreak reaches a global epidemic, according to the chief scientific adviser to the Government.
Sir Patrick Vallance told reporters that if the Covid-19 virus spreads in the UK, it “doesn’t really make more sense to say ‘you’re at more risk somewhere else than you are here’.”
He went on: “Once the epidemic is everywhere, then actually restricting travel makes no difference at all.
“At the moment we are certainly not recommending any change to behaviours in relation to that.”
But England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it would be “more problematic” for UK tourists visiting countries “with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic”.
Mainland China reported 125 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 80,151. The death toll reached 2,943 as of end-Monday, up by 31 from the previous day.
The global death toll exceeded 3,000, with the virus spreading to more than 60 countries. The virus broke out in Wuhan late last year and has since infected more than 89,000 people, mostly in China.
Outside of China, there are now more than 8,700 infected and over 125 deaths.
Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK