UK to ban mass gatherings from next week to curb coronavirus
LONDON: The British government will ban mass gatherings from next week in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, an escalation of its crisis plan that critics had said was too relaxed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted pressure to take some of the stringent measures adopted by other European countries to slow the spread of the virus.
"Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public events, including mass gatherings, beginning next week," a government source said on Saturday.
Legislation would be published next week to give the government powers to deal with the outbreak, including to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations, the source said.
Some organisations have stepped ahead of the government in terms of limiting public gatherings. On Friday, England's soccer Premier League suspended all matches until April 4 and other events such as the London Marathon were postponed by their organisers.
Queen Elizabeth, 93, cancelled some public engagements for next week due to the coronavirus outbreak, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.
Johnson postponed for a year local and mayoral elections in England that had been due to take place in May.
As of Friday, Britain had 798 cases of the illness, and 11 people had died.
US President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States might include the United Kingdom in the coronavirus travel ban that it has imposed on other European countries.
British media said the new ban on mass gatherings could affect events such as the Glastonbury music festival, the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Grand National horse race.
Scotland's devolved government said on Thursday all large gatherings above 500 people should be cancelled to help emergency services to focus on the coronavirus outbreak.