Mass gatherings set to be banned in UK's fight against coronavirus

Plans are underway to ban mass gatherings from next week as part of the battle against coronavirus, marking a significant shift in the government's position.

It comes as the government looks to implement more extreme measures in the fight against Covid-19.

Boris Johnson had faced criticism for not taking such actions, despite similar steps being taken by other European countries as the pandemic worsens.

Twenty two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Wales, bringing the total to 60 in the country.

A woman in a mask outside the tube station in Oxford Street in London. Credit: PA

Dr Chris Williams, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said:

"We can confirm that 22 new cases have tested positive for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 60.

"The process of identifying and contacting close contacts of the new cases is underway, and we are taking all appropriate actions to protect the public’s health."

Meanwhile emergency legislation bringing in beefed-up powers will be published next week and there could also be a move towards more people working from home, a Whitehall source said.

The announcement comes as the UK deals with a rising number of cases of the virus and a death toll of 11.

A Whitehall source said: "Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.

"We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.

"There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible. We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence."

Scores of major sporting and cultural events have already been suspended, despite the Government resisting calls to ban mass events in its latest guidance earlier this week.

Scotland had already announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

Closed ticket stalls at Wembley Stadium. Credit: PA

On Friday, the World Health Organisation said Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic and Donald Trump indicated he might add the UK to a list of countries facing a US travel ban.

The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had previously said while it is “eye-catching” to order the cancellation of mass gatherings and sporting events, the chances of contracting the disease by attending such occasions are slim.

Mr Johnson had faced criticism from some experts as well as former health secretary Jeremy Hunt who questioned the decision not to cancel large gatherings

The Whitehall source said officials are “concerned about the burden large events put on public services – including the health service and the police – from dealing with coronavirus”.

Sir Patrick has explained that the Government is hoping its approach to tackling coronavirus will create a “herd immunity” to the disease.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know