Monday 9 March 2020 11:42 am

Coronavirus: Rory Stewart says authorities should look at shutting down the Tube

The UK’S public transport systems and schools should be shut down early to combat the spread of Coronavirus, according to independent mayoral candidate Rory Stewart.

Stewart said the “short-term economic damage” of shutting down Transport for London, for instance, would be worth it to “stave off a bigger spread”.

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It comes after London mayor Sadiq Khan said last week that it was “unforeseeable” that he would shut down the Tube to deal with Covid-19.

The number of confirmed cases in the UK hit 275 this morning, with the death toll now at three, while the global total has surpassed 100,000.

Boris Johnson will host a Cobra meeting with senior ministers and health chiefs today to discuss emergency measures to combat the virus.

Stewart, who visited Nigeria in his role as international development secretary during last year’s Ebola outbreak, said last night the government and local authorities needed to act fast to stop a wider outbreak.

He said “aggressive” measures taken by China should provide a guide for Britain.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Stewart said: “The problem around these tables if you’re sitting at a Cobra meeting is the expert advice is never quite definitive, people are learning all the time. 

“So, a question such as ‘what is the point you shut schools’ or ultimately ‘what is the point at which you shut a public transport system’, there will be so many voices around the table who are going to be pushing to say let’s just give it another day or two. 

“My experience watching people deal with Ebola in the eastern Democratic Congo and indeed with other situations is you have to act early.

“If you look at the projections being made worldwide for mortality rates it doesn’t at the moment look as though China is going to hit those kind of rates and my sense is aggressive containment and taking short-term economic damage is definitely worth doing if you can stave off the bigger spread.'” 

Fellow mayor of London candidate Siobhan Benita said last week that Khan should install hand sanitisers in every Tube and train station to help with containment efforts.

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The Liberal Democrat challenger also said they should be installed on buses.

“Even if only a small proportion of commuters make use of the sanitisers, it could have a big impact,” she said.