He said while ‘everyone's strongest instinct’ was to visit their mother on Mother's Day, the best single present they could give their parent was to stay away and minimise the risk of infection.
“This time the best thing is to ring her, video call her, Skype her, but avoid any unnecessary physical contact or proximity,” he said.
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“And why? Because if your mother is elderly or vulnerable, then I am afraid all the statistics show that she is much more likely to die from coronavirus, or Covid-19. We cannot disguise or sugar-coat the threat.”
The Government and health officials have urged the 1.5 million people in England considered most at risk from the disease because of their health conditions to begin ‘shielding’ themselves by staying at home.
Letters will go out this week ‘strongly advising’ them not to go out for at least 12 weeks from Monday.
In a stark message to the country, Mr Johnson said the NHS was in danger of being ‘overwhelmed’ in the same way as the Italian healthcare system unless people heeded Government advice on ‘social distancing’.
His message follows Friday's dramatic announcement that all pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres are to shut in the latest move to combat the disease.
The UK's Covid-19 death toll reached 233 yesterday, the same as Italy's total two weeks ago. Italy's toll has since risen to 4,825.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the Government was imposing measures ‘never seen before either in peace or war’, but said they were essential.
“The numbers are very stark, and they are accelerating. We are only a matter of weeks - two or three - behind Italy. The Italians have a superb health care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” he said.
“The Italian death toll is already in the thousands and climbing. Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread - then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed.”