Coronavirus: Boris Johnson vows to beat killer virus ‘We’ll get through it!’

The Government is issuing details of the UK’s plans to deal with the crisis, as experts warned the virus may have already taken hold in this country. The Prime Minister has also ordered that a cross-government “war room” of communications experts and scientists be set up ahead of a public information blitz, telling people to frequently wash their hands and use ­disposable tissues. The news comes as experts warn that dozens of Britons could already have the virus, but still not have been tested. 

A designated “ministerial virus lead” will help oversee the cross-government response to the outbreak. 

The PM will continue to lead the Government approach and the virus will be on the agenda at weekly cabinet meetings. The number of high-level briefings between leading scientific experts and senior civil servants will also increase to support ministers in their preparations. 

Mr Johnson said: “We must prepare for coronavirus and listen to the advice of the chief medical officer, especially about the ­importance of washing our hands with soap. 

“We should be doing that for 20 seconds, and more often than we would normally think was necessary. This will make a real difference in stopping this virus spread. 

“Coronavirus may very well be a challenge in the weeks and months ahead. 

“But I have no doubt that, with the help of the NHS and its incomparable staff, this country will get through it – and beat it.” 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Public safety is our top priority. 

“Our battle plan will ensure that as this escalates, every part of Government is working together to share the responsibility of tackling the health, economic and social impacts of Covid-19. 

“The Government and the NHS are working 24/7 to fight this virus, but cannot do this alone. 

“Every single person has a role to play in helping to manage the spread of the virus. 

“Whether that’s washing your hands more often, catching your sneezes, or following clinical advice by calling NHS 111 and not going to A&E if you develop symptoms.” 

The UK is currently in the “containment” phase, where isolated cases are transferred to hospitals and detailed contact tracing is ­carried out. 

But the next stage could see broader measures introduced to keep the public safe and relieve the pressure on the NHS. 

As the PM prepares to chair an emergency Cobra meeting tomorrow, public health experts warned that more than a quarter of the UK workforce could be off sick with coronavirus at any one time because the illness is likely to become widespread within the next couple of months. 

Yesterday, three new cases from Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire were confirmed – bringing the total to 23. 

The number tested has now reached 10,483, including a family of four who fell ill after a holiday in Venice. Father Callum Kerslake last night said: “I’m terrified for my babies.” 

A 999 crew in decontamination suits yesterday took Callum, 24, wife Jessica Luana, 21, and children Sophia, three, and 11-month old CJay, away. Last night they were back at their Hull home, self-isolating until the results come back in two to three days. 

Health officials are also investigating a man from Surrey, believed to be the first to catch coronavirus in this country. It remains unclear whether the man had contracted the virus “directly or indirectly” from somebody who had recently travelled abroad. 

Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the country’s top disease experts from the University of Aberdeen, fears the Surrey case could indicate the virus had already taken a small hold. 

He added: “The virus could be buzzing around in Surrey and under the radar. We still do not know how many have been infected nor do we know how many have been infected and already recovered.” 

Professor Robert Dingwall, from Nottingham Trent University, said: “It looks like pretty good odds most of us will get this coronavirus if it becomes established in this country over the next few months. 

“Based on pandemic flu ­planning, we can assume this will be around 85 percent of the ­population over six months.” 

The news comes as military chiefs are said to be drawing up contingency plans to support public services should the virus become widespread and staff forced to take sick leave. 

Troops could be drafted in to maintain NHS services, ensure food and supplies get through to hospitals and care homes and work at airports and ports to scan passengers’ temperatures. 

On Friday, a man in his 70s from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan was confirmed as the first Briton to die from the virus. 

More than 700 tourists became infected on the liner. 

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