Doctors and nurses could be brought out of retirement to fight coronavirus

Doctors could be brought out of retirement to help in the fight against coronavirus, as the Government announces a UK "battle plan" if the outbreak worsens.

People could be urged to work from home and "necessary travel" discouraged as part of contingency measures, if the spread of coronavirus escalates into a pandemic.

The plans include emergency registration of health professionals who have retired and relaxing rules around school class sizes, in case teachers are off ill or forced to self-isolate.

Other proposals include introducing emergency indemnity coverage for healthcare workers to allow them to diagnose or care for those who contract the deadly illness.

The UK currently has 23 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Credit: PA

The so-called “social distancing” approach is part of a strategy designed to delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year, potentially helping to combat the virus during warmer weather conditions when it will spread less easily.

The UK currently has 23 confirmed cases of the virus, but fears of a wider outbreak worsened after a person contracted the disease without travelling abroad.

A Surrey resident caught the disease within the UK, and on Friday, Haslemere Health Centre was temporarily closed for cleaning as "a routine precautionary measure."

Expert teams are actively tracing those who have come into contact with the person, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed.

The latest three patients in the UK had recently returned from Italy and Asia, while Ireland recorded its first coronavirus case.

Willow Bank Infant School in Berkshire issued a statement to parents on Saturday confirming a staff member had tested positive for coronavirus.

Headteacher Michelle Masters said the school would be closed "for some days to allow for a deep clean."

Meanwhile Holiday operator Tui said it would be making arrangements for Brits on lockdown at a coronavirus-hit hotel in Tenerife to return to the UK if they test negative for the disease.

A British man became the first UK citizen to die from the virus on Friday and he had been on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan’s coast.

British man who was on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan was the first UK citizen to die from the disease. Credit: AP

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme the Government was still hopeful of containing the disease.

The Cabinet minister said the long-term strategy for ensuring Covid-19 was contained was attempting to delay its "peak" until the summer when the warmer weather means the virus will not spread so easily.

The Government is also putting £40 million into trying to find a vaccine and also aiming to improve treatments for patients who do have the disease, he said.

Mr Hancock told people to "go about their ordinary business" for the time being and said clamping down on travel and banning public gatherings at this stage was unlikely to be effective.

He said the NHS was ready to deal with coronavirus if the situation worsened, with more than 5,000 emergency critical care beds available "if that's necessarily."

The US reported its first death from the virus and the White House announced new restrictions on international travel to prevent its spread.

President Donald Trump said he was considering additional restrictions, including closing the border with Mexico in response to the outbreak.

The UK Government's plan to combat a further spread of coronavirus is due to be issued across all four nations of the UK.

It is based on the Government’s existing contingency plans for responding to a pandemic flu outbreak, but adapted for Covid-19.

Boris Johnson has announced he will establish a “war room” in the Cabinet Office featuring a cross-Whitehall team of communications experts who are responsible for rolling out a public information campaign.

Boris Johnson has said he will establish a ‘war room’ in the Cabinet to tackle the coronavirus. Credit: PA

A publicity campaign will be unveiled featuring posters and social media adverts to reinforce the importance of hand-washing for 20 seconds or more with water and soap in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, will chair his first emergency Cobra meeting about the outbreak on Monday.

He has been criticised for not chairing the session earlier.

Other policies being brought in include designating a minister in every Whitehall department to be responsible for its response to coronavirus.

There are to be further emergency Cobra meetings planned for this week, officials confirmed, on top of the gathering to be chaired by the prime minister.

Coronavirus will be added as a standing item to the weekly Cabinet meeting agenda, Downing Street said.