The total number of people to die of coronavirus in the UK has now risen to 55, health secretary Matt Hancock announced this afternoon.
That means the death toll has risen by 21 in the past 24 hours, the largest rise yet recorded in a single day.
Earlier today the Department of Health said that the total number of cases in the UK has now risen to 1,543 as of 9am this morning, with 42,562 negative tests confirmed.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock said that the pandemic was “the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation”.
He added: “Our goal is to protect life. Our actions have meant that the spread of the virus has been slowed in the UK and I want to pay tribute to the officials at Public Health England and the NHS for their exemplary approach to contact tracing and their work so far.”
He also said that emergency legislation will be introduced to parliament on Thursday which should give the government new powers to keep public services on track during the outbreak.
Hancock was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping new measures to limit the disease’s spread in the first daily press conference on the coronavirus.
Johnson said Britons should “start working from home where they possibly can,” and should avoid pubs, restaurants and other social environments. But Londoners in particular have been urged to take this advice seriously, with the capital “some weeks ahead” on the curve spread.
Flanked by chief medical officer Chris Witty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, Johnson said the official advice for people with symptoms has been stepped up so that if “anyone in your household” has a fever and/or a persistent cough, everyone in the household should stay at home for 14 days.
Previously the advice was just for the affected individual to stay at home for seven days.