More hand-washing and less hand-wringing sums up the stance the British government is taking as it announced its action plan to tackle the outbreak of the new coronavirus Covid -19.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a four-point plan as the UK shifts into high gear to contain the outbreak, which is now spreading globally.
In addition to public health concerns, there are also worries about the economic impact of Covid-19.
Speaking on Tuesday Prime Minister Johnson outlined a four-point ‘battle plan’ focused on containing the virus, delaying its spread, carrying out research into the virus for which there is as yet no vaccine, and mitigating the impact of the disease on public health and the economy.
To date, 51 persons in the UK are known to have been infected with this new strain of the coronavirus.
The government expects a "very significant expansion" in the number of cases according to prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“It is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, which is why we’re making every possible preparation,” the Prime Minister said.
He assured that “we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable."
There is growing concern about the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK and globally.
It is feared that up to a fifth of the UK workforce, about six million people, could be sidelined off sick as a result.
Some companies in the UK are already arranging for some staff to work from home to minimise the risk of contracting and spreading the virus in the workplace with the knock-on effect on productivity.
Prime Minister Johnson said the concerns about the economy also underlines the government’s drive to take the necessary steps to contain the outbreak of the virus and mitigate the spread of the disease.
The National Health Service (NHS) is being further resourced to cope with an expected increase in patient numbers, especially those who are expected to requite hospitalisation and quarantining.
It was also announced that medical services will also be with support from the police and military should the situation require. Hospital care could also be prioritised with non-urgent cases being delayed to treat patients with Covid-19.
Recently-retired doctors and nurses are being put on standby to be recalled for support duty, and already the NHS has increased the number of staff assigned to its call-centre support team.
The government has also stated that it’s also considering closing schools and suspending events with large crowds should that become necessary.
Addressing concerns about the likelihood of a widespread outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, Prime Minister Johnson said the government’s plans “do not set out exactly what the government will do but the steps it could take.”
“I fully understand your concerns,” he said, “and keeping the country safe is the government’s priority, while we prepare for all eventualities.”
He assured that “the country remains well prepared and the vasts majority of people should go about their business as usual.”
On the recurring question of hand-shaking, Mr Johnson said he continues to shake people’s hands but added that its a matter of choice for the individual, but he emphasised the importance of handwashing.
“We can all continue to do our bit to fight this virus - by washing our hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice,” the Prime Minister advised.