The government has refused to rule out cutting off entire cities if Britain enters a worst-case scenario of Coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we don’t take anything off the table” as the global death toll neared 3, – including one Brit on a cruise ship in Japan.
The Tory Cabinet minister, who is setting up a “war room” and passing emergency laws, warned scientists have said it is “inevitable” that the virus will become endemic in society.
If that happens, he said, in a worst case scenario the UK may need “significant actions” that would have “social and economic disruption” – which could include closing some schools with a specific ris k and pulling ex-doctors out of retirement.
Football events and concerts could also be banned, and people could be urged against using public transport. He told the BBC: “We’re looking at all options, including those.” However, he added there was also a risk of taking such actions too early.
BBC interviewer Andrew Marr asked Mr Hancock directly: “China of course isolated entire cities. Is it conceivable under any circumstance that you’d try to cut off a city in this country?”
The Health Secretary replied: “There’s clearly a huge economic and social downside to that, but we don’t take anything off the table at this stage – because you have got to make sure you have all the tools available if that is what’s necessary.
“But I want to minimise the social and economic disruption, and at this stage we still have the hope – although the numbers elsewhere are rising fast – that we might be able to avoid this outcome. ”
Mr Hancock stressed that, with only cases confirmed in the UK, “right now people should not be closing schools.”
A Sked about a possible ban on large public gatherings, he said: “We are looking at all those sorts of things, we do not rule them out, but there’s also a problem if we make decisions like that too early.”