Fourth death confirmed as number of UK coronavirus cases rises to 319

The number of deaths connected to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK has risen to four.

The Department of Health has said 24,960 have been tested for the virus, as of 9am on Monday, of which 319 have been positive.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, told MPs: "Here in the UK, as of this morning, there were 319 confirmed cases.

"Very sadly this now includes four confirmed deaths.

"I entirely understand why people are worried and concerned and we send our condolences to the families."

There have been two more cases confirmed in Wales and the first case in the Channel Islands.

The fourth person to die after testing positive for coronavirus in England was being treated in Wolverhampton and had underlying health conditions.

In a statement, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "I am very sorry to report that a fourth patient in England who tested positive for Covid-19 has sadly died.

"I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their privacy is respected.

"The patient, who was being treated at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospital, was in their 70s and had underlying health conditions. It appears the virus was acquired in the UK and full contact tracing has begun."

Mr Hancock added he will do "all that he can" to ensure that Parliament remains open during the outbreak.

He said: "I think that parliamentary scrutiny of decisions of the magnitude that we are having to take in response to coronavirus and the novel nature of them - that parliamentary scrutiny is incredibly important.

"And I will do all that I can to ensure that Parliament remains open."

Public Health England confirmed on Sunday evening that a man in his 60s, with underlying health problems, died at North Manchester General Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has chaired an emergency meeting to discuss the country's response to the coronavirus crisis as the number of confirmed deaths connected to the outbreak rises to four.

As well as Cabinet ministers, England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and the government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance were all in attendance at Monday's Cobra meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting it was confirmed by First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, that the UK remained in the containment phase of the outbreak.

It had been thought the government could decide to move out of the "contain" phase and into the "delay" phase of tackling the illness following the meeting.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a Cobra meeting on Monday. Credit: PA

During the "delay" phase, the aim is to slow the spread of the virus, reducing the impact and pushing it away from the winter season.

Arlene Foster confirmed that the UK remained in the containment phase and said people should continue to take a "common sense" approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on the steps of the Cabinet Office Ms Foster said that decisions to postpone major public and sporting events would be "led by the scientific advisers".

"We're still in the containment phase," she said.

"This is a big issue for the nation, there's no getting away from it. What we must do is try to mitigate and delay this disease becoming a real issue for the whole of the UK.

"We are led by the scientific advisers... but it is all about timing and taking the appropriate intervention at the appropriate time.

"Take a common sense approach to this, I think that's very important."

Ms Foster said no decisions had yet been made with regards to cancelling major public gatherings in Northern Ireland.

Arriving at Monday's meeting, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters the outbreak is "obviously a concern for people" but stressed the NHS was "very well prepared".

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know:

Part of the government's plan to sustain a delay could involve "reducing the number of large-scale gatherings", according to the coronavirus action plan.

Though Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, whose department would eventually make the decision on sports events, said any speculations about cancellations is "very premature".

He says the government is "no where near that sort of stage" and the decision will be "driven by the facts and the evidence and the science".

The government believes that if the peak of the virus can be delayed until warmer months, it can reduce the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges that the colder months bring.

A food handler in the UK wears a protective mask and gloves. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson is believed to have told the meeting on Monday that tackling the outbreak will require a "national and international effort".

"I am confident the British people are ready to play their part in that," he told those in attendance.

One symptom of the contain phase is people "panic buying" to avoid being left short if forced to self-isolate for 14 days.

The result has been empty shelves in supermarkets, with people, for example, buying large quantities of toilet roll.

Mr Dowden says people should be "reassured" that supermarket "supply chains can cope" and "shelves will be restocked".

He added: "There really is absolutely no need for people to hoard or to purchase more than they need."

The high level discussions came as:

  • Supermarkets placed restrictions on items including pasta, anti-bacterial wipes and hand soap in a bid to prevent shoppers from stockpiling, amid reports of people panic-buying in shops.

  • The Foreign Office and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "working intensively" with US authorities on arranging a flight for British nationals on the coronavirus-hit Grand Princess cruise ship due to arrive in Oakland, California, on Monday.

  • British tourists were warned to avoid all but essential travel to a swathe of northern Italy under a coronavirus quarantine, including the popular destinations of Milan and Venice.

  • Travellers returning from the lockdown areas in northern Italy were advised to self-isolate if they have returned to the UK in the last 14 days, even if have they have no coronavirus symptoms.

  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport prepared to host a meeting with governing bodies and broadcasters on Monday to discuss how to handle the Covid-19 outbreak’s potential impact on the sporting calendar.

  • Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said expert teams had been brought together to tackle the potential spread of “misinformation and digital interference” around coronavirus.