The Scottish Mail on Sunday
ARMY TO GUARD HOSPITALS AND SUPERMARKETS
Darkest day yet as UK death toll nearly doubles Panic buying hits shops as plans are drawn up for...
MINISTERS have drawn up plans to put troops on the streets to help deal with the coronavirus crisis after the number of deaths almost doubled within 24 hours.
The death toll jumped from 11 to 21 and the number of confirmed UK cases has leapt by almost 40 per cent to 1,140. In Scotland there has been one death but confirmed cases rose yesterday to 121, up 36 in only one day. It is the largest daily increase since the outbreak hit.
Days after Scotland became the first part of the UK to ban large events and gatherings of more than 500 people, Downing Street accelerated plans for similar restrictions and to implement the self-isolation of entire households where anyone has succumbed to the illness.
In a bid to ‘shield’ the most vulnerable, the UK Government is also expected to tell people over 70 to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months.
Under emergency legislation to be put before MPs within days, safeguards introduced after the scandal involving serial killer
Dr Harold Shipman will also be suspended in order to speed up cremations and burials.
Ministers will also get powers to make compulsory purchases of land to free up room for extra graveyards.
In preparation for the worstcase scenario, defence sources told The Mail on Sunday that Army units were stepping up their training for public order roles – including the guarding of hospitals and supermarkets.
The Royal Logistic Corps is preparing to be used to escort food convoys and the Royal Army Medical Corps is poised to build tented field hospitals next to care homes.
Troops trained in chemical, biological and nuclear warfare will deep-clean empty public buildings in case they need to be turned into hospitals or morgues. And the Army has also drawn up contingency plans to keep petrol stations topped up with fuel when the country reaches ‘peak virus’.
As confirmed UK cases rose to 1,140, up from 820, globally there have been 153,585 reported cases with 5,802 deaths. Yesterday, in a day of dramatic developments:
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies told the Government that it will soon need to start shielding the most vulnerable and isolating entire households;
President Donald Trump announced the US travel ban would be extended to the UK from tomorrow;
Hundreds of Britons, many of them elderly, were stuck aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean where five people have tested positive for the virus;
Spain and Poland closed their borders, stranding thousands of British holidaymakers, and France closed all non-essential public spaces such as cafes;
Boris Johnson asked UK manufacturers to support the rapid, wartime-style production of essential medical kit, particularly ventilators, while the NHS will buy up beds in private hospitals;
Panic-buying led to extraordinary scenes at supermarkets across the country, prompting stores to plead with consumers to ‘work together’;
l World Health Organisation spokesman Dr Margaret Harris questioned the British Government’s strategy of delaying ‘social distancing’, arguing that it risked infecting millions;
Chancellor Rishi Sunak met insurance leaders amid a growing row over who will foot the bill for cancelled holidays;
It emerged that care homes and hospitals are likely to be ‘cocooned’ when the Easter lockdown comes into effect;
Three patients tested positive for Covid-19 at a hospital close to the Queen’s Norfolk estate;
Downing Street underwent a ‘deep clean’ following a visit by Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who subsequently tested positive for the virus – but the Prime Minister and his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds have not been tested as they have shown no symptoms;
A group of Dutch scientists claimed to have found an antibody that may help detect and prevent the coronavirus from being able to infect people;
l Experts predicted that the Government could be forced to effectively nationalise airlines and train companies;
May’s Edinburgh Marathon Festival was postponed;
The University of Glasgow cancelled face-to-face teaching after three cases of coronavirus were confirmed, while assessments will no longer be held in exam halls;
Edinburgh University, the University of the West of Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University have announced face-to-face teaching will cease from tomorrow.
Last night, it was reported that Virgin Atlantic will tomorrow call on Mr Johnson to provide £7.5billion to avert an aviation industry crisis.
Defence sources told this newspaper that under the contingency plans, 38 military liaison officers would work with local councils to brief civil servants on how the Armed Forces could help combat the crisis.
The most essential staff, such as RAF Typhoon pilots, would be quarantined at work to ensure the UK’s protection and the SAS’s stand-by squadron would be held in the UK, rather than deployed overseas.
If the crisis deepens, hundreds – possibly thousands – of troops could be deployed.
Hundreds of members of the Armed Forces hold HGV licences and are trained in transporting hazardous loads such as fuel.
Members of the Royal Military Police would also support local constabularies, while troops could be used to drive ambulances and fire engines.
Mr Johnson will tomorrow issue a Churchillian call to leading British manufacturers to join a national effort to combat the spread of the virus. He will urge the construction of more ventilators, which the Government will vow to buy.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘The scale of the challenge we face means we can’t do this alone... we need every part of society and every industry to ask what they can do to help the effort.’
Amid criticism of the UK Government’s strategy, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said they will publish the statistical models on which the ‘shielding and isolating’ response was based.
US travel ban extended to the UK ‘We can’t face this challenge alone’
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