COVID-19: PM to chair COBR meeting

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today chair a meeting of the government emergency COBR committee to agree a "battle plan" and detailed set of countermeasures to deal with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

This is not the first time a COBR meeting has been convened on the matter. It is understood that the committee has held regular meetings since January. Today, Johnson is expected to lay out a clear battle of measures "we could use -- if and when they are needed", in a plan that is expected to adapt to the evolving situation. "There now seems little doubt that it will present a significant challenge for our country. But we are well prepared, and the government and the NHS will stop at nothing to fight this virus."

The focus of the rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 has shifted from China, as the World Health Organisation reports 87,137 cases of the virus globally (as at 1st March), of which 1,739 were confirmed in the previous 24 hours, with the vast majority (1,160) from outside of China.

In the UK, whilst 11,750 people have been tested for the virus, only 35 have come back positive. This is still a very low number, albeit an uptick from last week. According to a statement issued by the UK's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, three of these patients were close contacts of a known case, transmitted in the UK; one patient, resident in Essex, had no relevant travel and it is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad. Of the remaining eight cases, six had recently travelled from Italy and two from Iran.

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