Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday, March 18, that schools nationwide will close from Friday, March 20, to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). He had previously urged all individuals to limit public gatherings - particularly in crowded places such as pubs, restaurants, and other entertainment venues - and to avoid all non-essential travel. Theaters and music venues nationwide subsequently announced that they will close on Monday, March 16. Any person with a persistent cough or fever is urged to home-quarantine for 14 days, along with all other members of their household. Health officials are expected to contact all residents with serious health conditions in the coming days to advise them to avoid social contact for around 12 weeks.
Further restrictions are expected in the coming days. Prime Minister Johnson highlighted London as an area requiring special attention due to the more rapid spread of the virus than anywhere else in the UK, and has warned that the nation was approaching "the fast growth part of the upward curve" in the number of cases.
The national carrier, British Airways, and budget airlines EasyJet and Jet2 have not announced as of March 18 any further restrictions to its flight operations. However, the airlines have said that they are closely monitoring the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) travel advisory and adhering to all flight suspensions and entry restrictions issued by other countries. More information regarding entry restrictions for individuals coming from the UK or British nationals can be found on the FCO website here.
As of 09:00 (local time) on March 18, Public Health England (PHE) officials have confirmed 2626 cases of COVID-19 nationwide and 103 associated fatalities. England remains the most affected with 2182 confirmed cases, including 953 cases in London, on Wednesday. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.