THE army is on standby to help tackle the Coronavirus crisis as part of Boris Johnson’s battle plan to kill off the deadly bug in Britain.
Soldiers could be deployed to guard vital sites so the police are free to deal with potential public disorder, the Government said today in a 25-page action plan.
Up to one in five could be off work sick during the peak of the crisis, it was predicted today.
The PM has this morning launched his doomsday battle plan to save as many lives as possible while ensuring Britain goes about business as usual.
It includes sweeping measures which will be considered by ministers in the coming weeks, such as shutting down schools, banning mass gatherings, and encouraging people to work from home.
The PM told a packed press conference at No10: “The army if of course always ready as and when, but that is under the worst case scenario.”
Health officials will put a range of situations to ministers to choose from – and give them evidence on how effective they might be.
But Brits were warned that it is “more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected” with up to 80 per cent of the population catching it.
The Government plan said the killer bug has “the potential to spread extensively”, but the great majority of people will have just mild symptoms.
And police could be asked to ditch low level work and just focus on serious crime too.
Boris said this morning it was “highly likely we will see a growing number of UK cases” and he “understood” the widespread concern among the British public.
Today’s warnings are not what will happen but the “steps that we could take, at the right time, on the basis of scientific advice”.
He again stressed that the best thing Brits can do is to wash their hands for 20 seconds to stop the spread of infection.
But he was confident that Brits would step up to the plate to the “national challenge”.
“I do think this is a national challenge,” he said this morning.
“The potential is there for something that our country has to get through
“I have no doubt we have the resources, the health services, the expertise.
“I am very confident that British public can see what the balance of risk is.”
His battle plan includes:
Urging millions of Brits to work from home to reduce the risk of catching it
Schools could be shut and areas of the country could be closed off as no-go zones like in China
Pensioners who are most at risk from the disease could be advised to stay away from public events like the VE Day celebrations in May
Large scale events like concerts and sports matches could be cancelled
Targeted advice will be given to vulnerable people to keep them safe
Plans to call retired doctors and nurses back into the NHS
Giving schools permission to have larger class sizes
Emergency laws to tackle the outbreak – including allowing border officials to refuse entry to Britain of anyone accused of carrying the virus
Police could ditch burglaries and low level calls to focus on public order and crime
Officials are still working on the event that the virus can still be contained.
But the urgent plans are for what might happen if it can’t be.
Britain will then move onto new “delay and mitigate” phases to try and stop it spreading.
There will be a focus on helping vulnerable groups as medical experts think this is best way to reduce the number of deaths.
Local authorities will have advice on how deal with increased deaths if the outbreak reaches a crisis point.
Brits could be encouraged to work from home, but they won’t be be forced to.
Services could be reduced as part of the NHS battle plan.
Non urgent operations may have to be scrapped to take care of people with the virus.
Brits could also be discharged from hospital earlier in order to free up more space.
Hospital worker shifts could also be altered, and leavers or retirees called “back to duty” to help out.
New laws could be introduced to make sure they can help out even if their licences have expired.
ECONOMY AND SOCIAL
If the virus continues to rampage through the country then the economy is likely to take a hit.
Ministers are preparing for large scale absences across the emergency services too which could have an impact.
And in the event of widespread pandemics, Brits may be urged to reduce their social contact outside of work too.
It comes after Matt Hancock warned there could be “no go areas” as the Health Secretary warned that the crisis has a serious chance of turning into a full blown pandemic in the UK.
Matt Hancock told Sky News: “We don’t rule out that kind of thing, but… the impact of the disease is greatest for elderly and vulnerable people.”
The chances of the virus becoming more widespread are serious, he stressed.
But he added: “There are some countries where the spread has slowed down and they have got a grip on it.
“It shows that measures can be effective if they are done right and follows the science.”
Last night he said the spread could take weeks to reach a peak, and ministers are hopeful of delaying the main outbreak for at least 30 days until the weather is warmer.
A worst case scenario would see 80 per cent of people infected, and four per cent needing hospital care.