Coronavirus: What next for Sheffield as government set to discuss closing schools

Closing schools because of mounting coronavirus fears is expected to be discussed by the government today.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 4:38 pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to sign off on moving the UK into the ‘delay’ phase for battling coronavirus during an emergency government meeting at noon.

He is expected to advance preparations for combating the deadly virus by switching to tactics designed to delay its spread rather than to contain the disease.

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Closing schools to prevent the spread of coronavirus is expected to be discussed by the government's Cobra committee today

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It comes after the global Covid-19 outbreak was categorised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, with eight people in the UK confirmed to have died after contracting the illness.

The delay phase would introduce social restriction measures to slow the spread of the virus and allow the NHS to clear the annual winter pressure it faces.

It would also provide a buffer to allow a possible vaccine to be developed.

According to the government's published action plan, the restrictions being considered would have ‘social costs’.

These are thought to include urging employees to work from home where possible, shutting down schools and cancelling events where masses of people will gather.

“Some of these will have social costs where the benefit of doing them to delay the peak will need to be considered against the social impact,” the government's action plan states.

China and Italy have put full scale lockdowns in place, with court action and fines threatened for people breaking imposed curfews.

Wuhan, the Chinese city of 11 million people, which was at the epicentre of the initial outbreak, temporarily shut down its public transport network.

And in countries such as France and Spain, large public gatherings have been banned in a bid to prevent widespread contamination.

Football matches in European countries, including Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, have been played behind closed doors as a result of bans on gatherings of 1,000 people or more.

Current advice, including washing hands and catching coughs and sneezes with tissues before binning them will continue during the delay period, as will trying to find and isolate coronavirus cases at an early stage.