LONDON, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The novel coronavirus outbreak has caused huge disruption in Britain as confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 590 as of Thursday morning, an increase by 134 in just 24 hours, the highest in a single day so far.
Two more patients have died in London hospitals since Wednesday after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths in Britain to 10, according to health authorities.
Major public gatherings in Britain were suspended or even cancelled shortly after the World Health Organization announced the spread of the virus across the globe was now a "pandemic", the first since swine flu in 2009.
Rock band The Who was the first musicians to cancel a major tour in Britain and Ireland Thursday, saying the decision was made with "much regret" but "fans' safety is paramount".
Due to start in Manchester on March 16 and finish at Wembley on April 8, all 11 shows are now set to be rescheduled for later in the year, the London-based newspaper the Evening Standard reported.
They have also called off a planned show at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, which was set to take place on March 28, but say they plan to reschedule this as well.
On Wednesday, managers of Camden Rocks cancelled the annual music festival slated for June in London's Camden Town. The festival attracts thousands of young people every year.
Also in London, Belsize Community Library was temporarily closed as a visitor is waiting for coronavirus test result. Children's cardiac surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in Bloomsbury was suspended for two weeks after a staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Hamsptead Hill School, next to the Royal Free Hospital, underwent a deep clean after a parent of one of the pupils was confirmed positive.
Meanwhile, the Hampstead Scientific Society, which manages the Hampstead Observatory's telescope near Whitestone Pond, said that it was taking the decision to close to the public "due to everyone's responsibility to help slow down the transmission rate" and ease "a huge burden on the health service."
The virus spread has led British public health officials to urge people to regularly wash their hands with hot and soapy water.
Anybody with symptoms -- a cough, fever or shortness of breath -- has been urged to call NHS 111 rather than heading to GP (General Practice) surgeries in their neighbourhood. Patient tests are taking place in pods outside hospitals.
Hundreds of high street businesses are expected to take a financial hit if trade slumps due to falling visitor numbers.
Trying to prevent shoppers from stockpiling, British supermarkets have put purchase limits on sought-after items including pasta, anti-bacterial wipes, hand soap, toilet paper and children's medications.
Shelves across the country have been stripped of such goods after the Public Health England urged people to "plan ahead" in case they had to self-isolate for a couple of weeks.
Tesco, the largest grocer in Britain, has begun restricting sales of essential food and household items as a result of panic buying.
Shoppers are limited to buying no more than five of certain goods, including antibacterial gels, wipes and sprays, dry pasta, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables. The rules apply in stores and online.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency COBRA committee meeting on Thursday afternoon, after which he is expected to declare that Britain will switch from trying to contain COVID-19 to delay its spread.
The government's action plan to tackle the virus includes: containing the virus, delaying its spread, researching its origins and cure, and finally mitigating the impact should the virus becomes more widespread.
If the government moves to the "delay stage", it could see school and museum and gallery closures as well as cancellation of major sporting events.