UK on coronavirus lockdown with mass gatherings and sports games to be banned

Mass gatherings will be banned across Britain in a bid to ease the impact of coronavirus.

Sports fixtures, music concerts and business conferences all face the axe amid mounting efforts to tackle Covid-19.

The Government believes the move, which is set to come into force next weekend, will help free-up emergency services rather than curb the spread of the disease, a Whitehall source said.

Ministers have faced criticism for failing to act earlier, but Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he is following experts' advice.

Earlier this week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned as the virus took hold.

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A Whitehall source declined to say how many people meant a “mass gathering”, but said tonight: “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.

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“For example, we are concerned about the burden large events put on public services – including the health service and the police – from dealing with coronavirus.

“Officials are working with industry bodies to identify how to support businesses that will be affected by this decision.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the Government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations.

“We will publish this legislation next week.”

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Meanwhile, a major crackdown on visitors to Parliament was announced last night(FRI) as authorities try to tackle the outbreak.

Tours will be banned, passholders were urged not to invite guests to Westminster, and no new banqueting bookings will be accepted.

MPs were also urged not to carry out official visits abroad.

In a joint statement, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his Lords counterpart Lord Fowler said: “In order to preserve the operation of Parliament, it is our duty to take proportionate and reasonable measures to reduce the risk to those who work on the parliamentary estate and those who have to visit.

“We are clear that now is the time to be pragmatic; everyone in the country is being asked to strike a balance and it is right that we do the same.

“It is in this spirit that we have decided to implement a number of restrictions relating to overseas travel and visitor access.”

The public will still be able to watch debates from public galleries.

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