LONDON, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The British government is set to move to "delay" phase, the second in Britain's four-step move, in responding to the coronavirus by closing schools, cancelling major sporting events and making people work from home, British media reported Wednesday night.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to chair an emergency Cobra committee meeting on Thursday afternoon, at which he is expected to declare that Britain will switch from trying to contain COVID-19 to delay its spread, said the reports.
The reports came after a total of eight people died in the UK from the disease, while two Britons were dead abroad.
Two people died in the UK diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, the day when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Nadine Dorries, who played a role in drawing up legislation to tackle the coronavirus, fell ill on Friday last week and has had coronavirus diagnosed on Tuesday evening after she met hundreds of people in parliament in the past week.
Over the weekend the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus jumped first to 209 on Saturday and then to 273 on Sunday, suggesting the virus is now widely circulating within the UK.
The four-step strategy includes efforts to contain, delay, research and mitigate in the government's response to the spreading coronavirus.
This initial phase, contain, was designed to rapidly identify anyone who had the virus and to quickly get them to a specialist infectious disease unit where they would be quarantined to prevent the virus from spreading.
If the virus runs unchecked it could infect tens of thousands of people, a significant minority of whom could become severely ill at the same time and overwhelm the British National Health System (NHS), which does not have enough critical care beds for everyone who may need them.
So the delay strategy is designed to soften that peak and push it into the spring and summer months when the disease may also be less able to spread in the warmer weather.
It's at this stage when the government will consider measures such as closing schools, postponing or cancelling large gatherings like football matches and concerts and encouraging people to work from home.
This is what officials call "social distancing." People are to be told to limit their interactions with each other, stay at home more, reconsider visits to elderly relatives, and so on. All to stop the virus spreading.
The third crucial phase, research, has in many ways already started and will run concurrently alongside others is the research aspect of the outbreak.
This final phase of the government's strategy to mitigate the virus will be effectively triggered once the disease is widespread and unable to be stopped or even slowed.
At that stage and faced with huge numbers of the population, as much as 80 percent, infected, the emphasis will shift to saving as many lives as possible and maintaining public order and the continuation of public services.
At this stage the NHS, local councils, police, fire brigades and so on will activate what are called their business continuity plans.
Hospitals will cancel operations and in extreme cases doctors will be forced to ration care to those most likely to benefit. Police may not respond to some crimes and the British Army could be brought onto the streets.
British Health secretary Matt Hancock has been clear that decisions will be made based on the scientific advice the government is given with the aim being to minimize the societal and economic disruption, subject to keeping people safe.