- Boris Johnson facing massive pressure to impose lockdown after weekend saw people flout 'social distancing'
- Claims that there would be a 'Cabinet mutiny' if the Prime Minister does not move to enforce its restrictions
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted decisions to come 'very soon' after 'selfish' behaviour by some people
- Labour MP and doctor Rosena Allin-Khan says PM's 'relaxed attitude' and 'mixed messages' will cost lives
- The UK death toll has risen by 48 in just 24 hours amid scenes of people gathering in parks and on beaches
- The PM had urged families to stay apart and instead celebrate Mother's Day via Skype and other means
- He said said there was 'no doubt' he would act if people continued to ignore distancing advice from scientists
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Boris Johnson faces massive pressure to impose a European-style lockdown to avert coronavirus disaster today as people continue to flout government guidance.
Demands are growing for the PM to ramp up controls after extraordinary images emerged this morning of still-packed Tube trains in London - regarded as the engine of the UK outbreak.
After a weekend in which crowds flocked to parks and landmarks to take advantage of sunshine, Mr Johnson effectively put the nation on its final warning last night, saying there should be 'no doubt' he would take draconian action.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock underlined this morning that a decision is expected 'very soon', hitting out at 'selfish' behaviour and saying 'nothing is off the table'.
He pointed to measures in Italy and France - where all municipal spaces have been closed, forms have to be filled out to leave the house, and police are on patrol handing out fines.
But Mr Hancock was embroiled in a furious spat with Piers Morgan after accusing the ITV Good Morning Britain host of spreading 'tittle tattle' over infighting within the government. Morgan retorted: 'How dare you!'
The backlash was mounting against Mr Johnson's 'relaxed' style today, with warnings of a 'full-scale mutiny' among Cabinet if the lockdown is not extended, and Labour MPs claiming his 'mixed messages will cost lives'.
Downing Street today dodged questions about the prospect of a mutiny, and said it was looking at evidence to decide whether social distancing must be enforced. 'If our analysis is that people haven't stopped their interaction then we will take further measures,' the PM's spokesman said.
Labour's official position has shifted to insist it is time to introduce harsher 'compliance measures'.
Traffic monitoring has suggested the capital is still running at a third of its normal rate, far higher than other European capitals.
Brutal restrictions appear to be looming as the UK death toll rose by 48 in just 24 hours to 281 people, with more than 5,600 confirmed cases. These who died in England were aged between 18 and 102, authorities said.
In other major developments today:
- The government has suspended rail franchises to maintain services, as operators faced collapse with passenger numbers tumbling;
- Mr Hancock has insisted he will ensure that NHS staff get all the personal protection equipment they need, amid fear they are currently 'lambs to the slaughter' when treating patients;
- The government has formally warned Britons flocking to campsites and holiday homes away from cities that it does not count as 'essential travel;
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing a fresh economic bailout for five-million self-employed amid warnings thousands of sole traders will not survive the crisis;
- The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, has said no new trials will start and that ongoing trials will be paused while arrangements are put in place so they can continue safely;
- Health minister Nadine Dorries, the first MP confirmed with coronavirus, has returned to work after recovering from the illness;
- The government is pushing emergency legislation through the Commons today, but Tory and Labour MPs have secured more checks on the measures including a fresh vote in six months;
- Research has suggested that the government's current policy could still result in up to 70,000 deaths from coronavirus;
In a tough message to the public from Downing Street this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: 'Even if you think you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people you can infect
There were appalling scenes over the weekend as Britons across the UK flocked to beaches and parks up and down the country to take a stroll with their loved ones for Mother's Day, despite Mr Johnson urging families to stay apart and meet via Skype or other remote communications.
In explosive clashes with Mr Hancock on ITV today, Piers Morgan demanded to know why the PM was not already 'locking down the country'.
The presenter said: 'Your strategy has not been the same all along…it changed dramatically. Herd immunity was the strategy then dramatically, it changed. So please don't insult my intelligence by telling me we followed the same strategy – we haven't.'
Mr Hancock insisted: 'Herd immunity has never been the strategy, as I've made clear repeatedly.'
But Morgan went on: 'I'm seeing the leader of this country refusing to take draconian measures to lock down the country when almost every other country has done so.
'He believes that it's wrong to remove people's liberty. I couldn't give a stuff. I think that you think we should be locked down, don't you?'
Mr Hancock said: 'People need to stay more than two metres apart from people who aren't in their household and if that isn't followed we are going to have to take more draconian measures as we have been prepared to. I'm working every hour that there is to protect people. I am not going to get into the tittle tattle that you're talking about.'
But the angry presenter said: 'Tittle tattle - how dare you. You think what I'm saying is tittle tattle.'
In a tough message to the public from Downing Street last night, Mr Johnson said that even though he understood the physical and mental health benefits of open spaces, he would take drastic steps to protect health.
He suggested the UK could copy some of the more extreme lockdowns in other parts of Europe, such as Italy and France.
'I don't think you need to use your imagination much to see where we might have to go,' he said.
'We will think about this very, very actively in the next 24 hours.
'We need to think about the kinds of measures that we have seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people's movements altogether.
'I don't want to do that because I have tried to explain the public health benefits.'
'Even if you think you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people you can infect,' he said.
'Take this advice seriously. Follow it. Because it is absolutely crucial.
'We will keep the implementation of these measures under review… and of course we will bring forward further measures if it is necessary.'
Hammering home the point, he added: 'If people cannot make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, in a way that observes the two-metre rule, then of course we are going to have to look at further measures.'
The escalation is looking increasingly likely as Tory pressure grows for tougher action.
One source told Buzzfeed that the mood among Cabinet ministers and senior advisers would be 'full scale mutiny' if he does not upgrade the response.
Mr Hancock warned today that the behaviour of a minority of the public was 'selfish'.
'We have been really clear in the actions that we have taken,' he said. 'We have demonstrated if we need to that we are willing to take more action.'
Asked about measures such as bans in Germany on public gatherings of more than two people, 'Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing.'
Mr Hancock said he accepted the police might need to be deployed to enforce such measures. 'These are unpleasant and very difficult times,' he said.
He said other European countries were further along the curve of the outbreak, but added: 'That means we can act sooner and earlier in this crisis.'
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: 'Labour will continue to try to support the government's response to the coronavirus emergency as best we can.
'But after another weekend of apparent public confusion and widespread non-compliance with 'social distancing', of grave scientific warnings and brave medical professionals talking of being sent to work like 'lambs to the slaughter' with inadequate protective equipment, something has to change.
'Other countries have taken further far reaching social distancing measures. We now call on the government to move to enforced social distancing and greater social protection as a matter of urgency.'
Rosena Allin-Khan, the Labour deputy leadership candidate and practising doctor, said Boris Johnson's 'relaxed' approach to coronavirus could cost lives.
The Tooting MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'If we look at the fact that we are two weeks behind Italy, we are headed for a disaster if people do not heed the social distancing measures.
'The Prime Minister simply said yesterday he wants people to enjoy themselves outside while also saying that people should stay two metres apart outdoors.
'This relaxed style, mixed messaging will cost lives and I believe people are struggling to follow guidelines because they are just not clear.'
The emergency department doctor confirmed she would support a 'full lockdown' if that was proven to be the way to save lives.
NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens (left) and Chief medical officer Chris Whitty (right) were in Downing Street today as ministers considering tightening the UK lockdown
In Dorset many strolled across the sands while others thought nothing of going for a dip in the sea this afternoon.
The Scottish government has today criticised tourists for 'irresponsible behavior' as many got in their caravans to try and 'escape' from the coronavirus.
In London, people were still out and about and some even made it down to the infamous Columbia Road Flower Market this afternoon, despite criticism from major Sadiq Khan who said Londoners needed to stay in to save lives.
Cumbria Police said despite Government advice to avoid non-essential travel, the Lake District and other tourist hotspots in the UK were experiencing an 'influx' of visitors.
In other developments:
As of 2pm today, testing has resulted in 20 new positive cases in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 128.
The total number of tests completed in Northern Ireland is 2,484.
A total of 44 were aged 44 or under, another 44 aged 45-69 and 40 were aged 70 or over. Males made up 73 cases and females 55.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton confirmed today that 12 people in Wales have died in total, with figures rising overnight by seven.
'My thoughts are with their families and friends, and I ask that their privacy is respected at this very sad time,' Dr Atherton said.
The deaths occurred during the week, but test results have only just confirmed they were infected with Covid-19, were over 70, and had underlying medical conditions.
Five of the deaths were at Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, one in Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, and one at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.
A further 89 people tested positive today, bringing the Welsh total of cases to 280.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also warned pubs that stay open during the Covid-19 outbreak are putting lives at risk.
Ms Sturgeon said that while the 'vast majority' of bars, restaurants and cafes have complied with instructions from the Scottish Government to close, she had seen suggestions on social media that a 'small minority might not be complying'.
She insisted: 'If that's true, make no mistake... lives are at risk as a result. Please do the right thing now.'
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has said self-isolaters should be banned from travelling to rural parts of Wales during the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Price has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford demanding he stops people travelling to caravan parks, second homes, and tourist accommodation.
He said there are concerns about an influx of people into rural communities - putting even more pressure on local health and social care services.
This comes as High Street chain Boots warned staff that its warehouses only contain enough supply for another '1.3 weeks', and stocks will be exhausted by the end of trading next week.
By Saturday March 28, the company expect to have run out of the painkiller Paracetamol.
In an urgent memo to staff, Boots also announced draconian measures to limit the sale of all products 'containing Paracetamol', in each of its 2,500 stores, to just one per person.
Halving the industry standard policy of two Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Aspirin products per customer transaction.
The company told staff the decision has been made in order to: 'Help us support as many customers as possible'.
UK pharmacies have been placing large orders with pharmaceutical wholesalers to replace stock amid panic buying, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The memo warns staff at retail outlets: 'Our availability on lines which are being driven by Coronavirus is changing daily. Whilst we are continuing to try and secure more stock from suppliers there are lines which are now OOS (Out Of Stock) or with very low forward weeks cover and you may not receive further deliveries for a period of time.'
It is illegal to sell more than 100 tablets or capsules of either paracetamol or aspirin in any one retail transaction, and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) guidelines limit sale to two packets per transaction.
The Paracetamol crisis comes after the government's chief science officer urged the public to avoid ibuprofen to treat Coronavirus.
Mr Price spoke out as would-be tourists are being urged to avoid beaches and other holiday destinations in the UK to limit the spread of the virus.
The continuing rise in deaths came as the Welsh Government announced a series of measures aimed at tackling the crisis, including bringing doctors and nurses out of retirement and increasing testing.
Mr Price is urging the Welsh Government to immediately order the closure of caravan parks, holiday parks and other holiday accommodation and use them, if necessary, to house frontline health staff.
He also wants to see people banned from using their second homes during the pandemic and urged people not to travel.
'In the interest of ensuring a consistent approach and controlling demand on local services in these areas, I believe that the time has now come for the Welsh Government to give direction,' Mr Price said.
'I am asking that urgent steps are taken to avoid unnecessary additional pressure on our health and social care system at this difficult time.
'This should clearly be done in consultation with other governments, acting in co-ordination where possible, but independently if necessary.'
Meanwhile, three junior doctors - all aged 30 - are 'not in a good way' and said to be on ventilators after contracting the bug in the same London hospital.
A medical source told The Sun on Sunday: 'Some will get mild symptoms - but not all will, and what has happened to the junior doctors shows that.
'Hopefully they are all strong enough to fight off the virus. But it serves as a warning to younger people not to be complacent.'
The UK's coronavirus death toll skyrocketed by 56 yesterday, while seven patients in Wales who tested positive for the disease have died.
The total deaths in England rose by 56 yesterday, as a 41-year-old is thought to be the youngest victim in Britain since the outbreak began.
All new victims in England had underlying health conditions, which is understood to include those suffering from cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, hypertension, diabetes, as well as cancer patients.
The eldest victim was a 94-year-old.
Eight of the new deaths in England were at Northwick Park Hospital, in North West London, which declared a 'critical incident' on Friday.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson urged Britons to celebrate Mother's Day remotely by using video calls - as he admits the NHS could be 'overwhelmed' by the outbreak.
The PM warned that 'the numbers are very stark and they are accelerating' as doctors said a 'tsunami' of severely ill patients was about to engulf them.
They described near-apocalyptic scenes amid chronic shortages of basic equipment and fears that unprotected medics could become desperately ill themselves - or even become unwitting carriers and infect others.
The PM's plea comes as rising numbers of infections has sparked people into frantic panic-buying, clearing the shelves of the nation's supermarkets.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told people to 'calm down' and claimed there is 'more than enough food to go around'. But he said frontline NHS staff were being deprived of essentials because of an upswing in stockpiling.
He said: 'This is a challenging time and there are many things the Government is asking the nation to do differently as we work together to fight this pandemic.
'Be responsible when you shop and think of others.
'Buying more than you need means others may be left without.'
Mr Eustice was flanked by British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson and NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis, who condemned the selfishness and said: 'Frankly we should all be ashamed.'
The health chief made his admonishment as he pointed to a viral video of female health worker Dawn Bilbrough, 51, who broke down in tears after she faced rows of bare shelves following an exhausting shift.
Ms Dickinson laid bare the sheer tonnage of food which has flown off the shelves in recent weeks when she revealed: 'There is a billion pounds more food in people's houses than there was three weeks ago, so we should make sure we eat some of it.
Boris Johnson urges families to stay apart and celebrate Mother's Day via Skype, warning the 'NHS is on the brink' amid fears of a 'tsunami' of severely ill patients as coronavirus deaths jump by 56 in one day
Boris Johnson urged Britons to celebrate Mother's Day remotely by using video calls - as he admits the NHS is on the brink of being 'overwhelmed' by the coronavirus.
The Prime Minister's warning that 'the numbers are very stark and they are accelerating' came as the UK death toll soared.
Doctors warned that a 'tsunami' of severely ill patients was about to engulf them, describing near-apocalyptic scenes amid chronic shortages of basic equipment and fears that unprotected medics could either become desperately ill themselves or become carriers and infect others.
As hospitals raced to convert operating theatres into intensive care wards and begged vets to hand over ventilators normally used for pets, Mr Johnson pleaded with the public to reduce social interaction, even with their mothers.
In a powerful letter, he said: 'Today is Mother's Day. It is a day when we celebrate the sacrifice and the effort of those who gave us life.
Boris Johnson with his mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl in London, October 2014
'Across the country, I know that millions of people will have been preparing to do something special - not just a card, not just flowers.
'I know that everyone's strongest instinct is to see their mother in person, to have a meal together, to show them how much you love them. But I am afraid that this Mother's Day the single best present that we can give - we who owe our mothers so much - is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease.'
He added: 'The best thing is to ring her, video call her, Skype her, but to avoid any unnecessary physical contact or proximity. And why? Because if your mother is elderly or vulnerable, then I am afraid all the statistics show that she is much more likely to die from coronavirus... We cannot disguise or sugar coat the threat'.
In a chilling reference to Italy, where the death toll rose by 793 yesterday to 4,825, the Prime Minister said that without a 'heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread', it was likely that 'our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed'.
The Government yesterday signed a landmark deal with private hospitals to supply an extra 8,000 hospital beds across England, almost 1,200 more ventilators and 20,000 more staff, including 10,000 nurses and more than 700 doctors.
Around 1.5 million people in England considered most at risk from the disease because of their health conditions will be instructed to begin 'shielding' themselves. Letters will go out to them this week, advising them not to go out for 12 weeks.
NHS doctor fights for life: Ear, nose and throat consultant, 52, is on life support amid fears many more medics will catch coronavirus
A senior NHS doctor is fighting for life after being infected with coronavirus , which may have happened during a routine appointment with a patient.
The 52-year-old ear, nose and throat consultant from the Midlands had been 'fit and well' but was last night on a life-support machine.
News of the medic's plight came as NHS colleagues warned many more staff will fall ill or die from coronavirus because of a chronic shortage of protective equipment.
Meanwhile, hospitals were scrambling to avoid meltdown amid a 'tsunami' of severely ill patients, many of them struggling to breathe.
And in a stark illustration of the desperate hunt for life-saving kit, health bosses have been forced to ask vets for ventilators designed for animals.
A paramedic is seen in Cheshunt at the back of an ambulance amid the impending lockdown
Angela and Robert Walsh, who own Corner House Equine Clinic in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, said their local hospital had got in touch to ask about ventilators.
Mrs Walsh said: 'This brings home how serious this pandemic is. Never before have the vets of Britain been asked to provide equipment for humans.'
Mrs Walsh told The Mail on Sunday that Christine Middlemiss, the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer, has written to every vet in the country asking for an inventory of their respiratory equipment. In hospitals, operating theatres are being frantically converted into intensive care wards and regular patients are being discharged to make way for a massive surge in coronavirus cases.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens announced an 'unprecedented deal' which will see private hospitals hand over their entire England-wide capacity of over 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators to the health service.