THE UK won't follow the US with a travel ban of shutting schools to stop coronavirus yet, the Chancellor said this morning.
Rishi Sunak insisted that while "we will consider everything" required to keep the country safe, a flight ban is not currently on the cards.
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It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to formally move Britain into the "delay phase" of the virus later today, admitting that it cannot be successfully contained for much longer.
And overnight Donald Trump banned all flights in and out of the US from Europe, starting tomorrow.
Italy has closed all shops apart from food stores and pharmacies, and Denmark has shut schools too.
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 told the BBC: "Here in this country we are determined to take the right steps at the right time.
"We haven't believed that's the right thing to do. The evidence here doesn't support that."
What is the delay phase and what could happen in it?
- Public information campaign on washing hands steps up
- Population distancing measures will be considered such as school closures, encouraging people to work from home and cancelling large scale gatherings like concerts and sports matches
- Measures to protect vulnerable individuals or those with illnesses and who are more at risk will be looked at
He also tried to claim Boris Johnson's battle plan revealed last week did not contain plans for school closures – though they were mentioned in the documents.
And he added: "School closures are not something that they are recommending now."
He hinted that measures on working from home and protecting the vulnerable would be the first advice to come out to the general public.
The PM is set to say the nation has now reached the “delay” phase and put Brits on notice that they could face sweeping restrictions on their lives.
It means the public could be told to start working from home and to scale back their socialising as the country tries to get a grip on the outbreak.
Care homes could place extra restrictions on visitors to protect the elderly, who are most likely to die from the killer bug.
Mr Johnson is expected to declare the major shift as he chairs an emergency COBRA meeting at lunchtime.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global pandemic as 126,000 people have been diagnosed with the killer bug across 114 countries.
More than 4,600 people have died – around 3,000 of them in China – after contracting COVID-19 across the globe.
Last night two ministers including a member of the Cabinet were among at least six MPs who are self isolating over fears they have caught coronavirus.
Health Minister Nadine Dorries has tested positive for the deadly bug.
Earlier this week it was warned that within ten days Brits with a cold could be told to stay at home.
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.
This morning MPs launched an inquiry into how the Home Office is preparing for the spread of Covid-19 – and its impact on the UK's borders.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Parliament will continue to sit through the crisis as he called on the nation to pull together.
He said: "I know how worrying this is, I know people have deep concerns, I know everyone will play their part in this national effort to defeat the virus.
"The best way to beat it is for us to work together and we'll do whatever it takes, we'll give the NHS whatever it needs and we'll do all that we can to keep people safe and get through this together as a Parliament and as a nation."
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