UK Politics: Johnson says government will 'stop at nothing' to fight coronavirus

The PM is working on the government's response to coronavirus
Johnson says the UK is ready for coronavirus

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK continues to rise, but Boris Johnson says the country is ready to fight the outbreak. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

We are well prepared, and the government and the NHS will stop at nothing to fight this virus."

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said the UK and the NHS are well prepared to handle the coronavirus outbreak, after the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the country rose to 36.

The prime minister waited until today (Monday March 2) to chair a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee, amid criticism of his response to the virus outbreak.

Financial markets last week felt the effects of growing anxiety around a potential coronavirus pandemic, with stocks witnessing their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. This morning, however, London's FTSE 100 rebounded as the Bank of England pledged to protect the UK economy.

Battle plan

A statement from 10 Downing Street confirmed the prime minister will chair a Cobra meeting today, bringing together senior ministers, the UK's chief medical officer and the chief scientific advisor to devise a "battle plan" containing a "detailed set of countermeasures" to handle the outbreak.

Johnson will tell the meeting there is now "little doubt" that the spread of Covid-19 will present a "significant challenge" for the country.

"But we are well prepared, and the government and the NHS will stop at nothing to fight this virus," he will add.

"This battle plan lays out in detail the measures we could use - if and when they are needed."

In a veiled response to those who have criticised the prime minister and the government for the speed of their response to the coronavirus situation, Downing Street said Cobra has been "meeting regularly" to discuss this issue since January and will come together "as often as needed".

Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, has said widespread transmission of coronavirus in the UK is now "highly likely" and the country must be prepared.

His comments came after 13 more people were diagnosed with the virus yesterday, including the first patient in Scotland, meaning the spread has now reached all four parts of the UK.

'Part-time prime minister'

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, called on the government to give a full explanation of the emergency powers it's planning to use in response to the outbreak.

He urged the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to address the House of Commons today to give an update on the government's proposed measures so MPs can scrutinise them.

"There are growing concerns about our part-time prime minister's handling of the coronavirus outbreak and serious questions about capacity in our overstretched NHS," Mr Ashworth said.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran wrote to the health secretary to call for assurances that people who are forced to self-isolate will be paid.

The GMB union, meanwhile, said NHS trusts should ensure that outsourced staff receive sick pay in suspected cases of Covid-19.

Approximately 86,000 people in more than 50 countries around the world have contracted the virus, with more than 3,000 patients dying.

Stock markets suffer

Escalating concern over the economic impact of the outbreak took its toll on financial markets last week, with the FTSE 100 plunging by more than 11% over the course of the week. Around £200 billion was wiped off the value of shares in London.

Monday morning brought slightly better fortunes for the UK's blue chip index, which enjoyed an early surge of more than 2.5% before falling away over the course of morning trading.

The market was buoyed by pledges from the Bank of England and other national banks that measures would be taken to protect economies from the worst effects of coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the central bank said it was working closely with the Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority and international partners to ensure "all necessary steps" are taken to "protect financial and monetary stability".

Elsewhere, Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by more than 12% last week, while Germany's DAX index fell by the same amount.

Shanghai's SSE Composite Index dropped by more than 5% last week but clawed back 3% today.

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