UK heads to 'wartime' scenario after virus death toll rises to 71
London: The UK must act like a "wartime" government and do whatever it takes to support the country's economy, Prime Minster Boris Johnson has said as Britain's death toll from the COVID-19 rose to 71 and the number of cases stand at nearly 2,000.
London is described as the hotspot of the pandemic as the virus rapidly spreads across different parts of the UK, which remains in semi-lockdown in line with the UK government's advice for everyone to avoid non-essential social contact and travel, both domestic and international.
Johnson's remarks came as India closed its borders to those travelling from the UK. The Indian High Commission in London has set up a system of online registration for all Indian citizens in the UK worried about their visas and keen to travel back to India and said it was working to "address all concerns".
India on Monday banned the entry of passengers from Europe, Turkey and the UK from March 18 till March 31 to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
"We announced the steps that we did advising against all unnecessary contact steps that are unprecedented since World War II. They will have an effect on the spread of the disease," said Johnson in his daily briefing related to the pandemic from 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.
The current death toll in the UK stands at 71 - with half of England's fatalities reported in London alone. The cases exploded by 407 to 1,950 on Monday, the biggest daily increase yet.
"We must act like any wartime government and do whatever it takes to support our economy," he said, as UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a massive 330-billion pounds bailout package for businesses to survive through the crisis.
The Indian-origin finance minister said his set of measures, including a tax and mortgage holiday for an extended period as well as grants and easier access to loans, will help relieve the pressure on companies as he promised to do "whatever it takes" to protect livelihoods.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the government to suspend home rental fees and ban evictions of tenants during the Coronavirus crisis.
Far-reaching emergency powers that will allow the police to detain people who may be infected with the Coronavirus and force them to be tested will pass through the House of Commons soon without the need for a formal vote.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock said that the law would be used only "when it is absolutely necessary to help to cope with the impact of the virus. The measures have been agreed between the parties and are likely to be passed through the Commons on the nod . They are expected to gain royal assent before the UK Parliament goes into its Easter recess next week.
"Public support and compliance is crucial and we are grateful for the flexibility people have shown, but we need to ensure police and immigration officers have the authority to enforce these measures where necessary, said a UK government spokesperson.
As in any wartime scenario, supermarkets in the country are set to restrict what customers can buy to prevent stockpiling. They will also urge customers to use less cash to prevent passing on the virus and may scrap self-checkout tills. We have enough food coming into the system but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger number of customers, said Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's.
Others have temporarily scrapped 24-hour opening at some stores, closing doors at midnight or 10pm to allow shelves to be replenished. Social media images showing shelves emptied of lavatory rolls are said to be partly to blame for triggering further panic buying.
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