Saturday 14 March 2020 9:36 am

Coronavirus: Mass gatherings could be banned in UK from next week

The government is considering implementing a ban on mass gatherings as early as next week to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Ministers are drawing up plans for the move, which is likely to see a ban on more than 500 people gathering together.

It is hoped it will ease pressure on emergency services as the number of coronavirus cases in the UK begins to swell.

On Friday, the total confirmed cases reached 798 after its biggest daily jump, although the government’s top scientific adviser warned on Thursday the number infected was likely nearer 10,000.

So far more than 30,000 people have been tested for Covid-19.

“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. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had resisted calls for such a ban earlier this week, despite similar action taken across other European countries.

While addressing the nation he had said there was not yet a need to cancel major events and insisted it was about the science and timing of these procedures.

However, a number of sporting events took the matter into their hands this weekend amid the virus outbreak and the majority of sports have been affected.

All Premier League and English Football League matches were suspended until April, Wales and Scotland’s Six Nations match was postponed, and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix and England’s Test series in Sri Lanka are also off.

Elsewhere, the Queen has been forced to cancel several public engagements and the government has delayed May’s local and mayoral elections by a year.

But the new measures could prevent yet unaffected events such as April’s Grand National, Glastonbury festival, which takes place in June, and Wimbledon.

It is unclear when the ban will begin but it is thought it could happen ahead of next weekend.

The emergency legislation is set to be published next week and will include compensation for organisations affected by a temporary ban on big events.

The possibility of stopping large-scale gatherings was raised in the government’s action plan to tackle coronavirus.

The latest advice is for anyone with a new cough or a high temperature to self-isolate for seven days.