UK does not need to copy US ban on flights from EU, says Sunak | World news

Britain does not need to follow the US in imposing a ban on flights from Europe as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, Rishi Sunak has said.

“The evidence here does not support that,” the chancellor said as he played down the chances of the UK replicating Donald Trump’s move to suspend travel from most EU countries for 30 days. Flights from the UK and Ireland are exempt.

Sunak was speaking the morning after the budget and as Boris Johnson prepared to chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee that will consider whether efforts to contain the virus have been exhausted and the UK should move to a new phase to delay its spread.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, will also meet Labour counterparts later on Thursday to agree a plan to push emergency coronavirus laws through parliament next week.

“With regard to flight bans we are always guided by the science as we make our decisions here. The advice we are getting is that there isn’t evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of the infections,” Sunak told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

What is Covid-19 – the illness that started in Wuhan?

It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals.

What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

In the UK, the medical advice is that if you have recently travelled from areas affected by coronavirus, you should:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

More NHS advice on what to do if you think you have been exposed to the virus can be found here, and the full travel advice to UK nationals is available here.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission confirmed human-to-human transmission in January, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.

How many people have been affected?

As of 9 March, more than 110,000 people have been infected in more than 80 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There have over 3,800 deaths globally. Just over 3,000 of those deaths have occurred in mainland China. 62,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus.

Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?

We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. Seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.

Another key unknown is how contagious the coronavirus is. A crucial difference is that unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, which means it is more difficult for vulnerable members of the population – elderly people or those with existing respiratory or immune problems – to protect themselves. Hand-washing and avoiding other people if you feel unwell are important. One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.

Have there been other coronaviruses?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. In 2002, Sars spread virtually unchecked to 37 countries, causing global panic, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 750. Mers appears to be less easily passed from human to human, but has greater lethality, killing 35% of about 2,500 people who have been infected.

Sarah BoseleyHannah Devlin and Martin Belam

The chancellor also acknowledged the impact of coronavirus on the government after two health ministers – Nadine Dorries and Edward Argar – and another unnamed cabinet minister were forced to self-isolate.

But Sunak came under pressure to have a coronavirus test himself after telling the Sky News broadcaster Kay Burley that he had not done so when she suggested that it would be responsible for him to do so.

“Close proximity to that person [Dorries] would be defined as having been in two metres of them for about 15 minutes. Obviously, that is not something that I have done. Otherwise I would have been contacted by Public Health England and had the contact testing.”

Sunak reiterated a promise in Wednesday’s budget to do “whatever it takes” to support households and businesses through the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, as the global health emergency threatened to plunge Britain into a recession and unleash widespread social and economic disruption.

But he also signalled that he would willing to borrow for day-to-day spending to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the short term.

“We will this year do everything it takes to deal with the immediate challenge, that’s absolutely the right thing to do, that’s the right economic response,” the chancellor told Sky News.

In a far-reaching budget statement placing the government response to the pandemic at its core, Sunak said he was making £12bn of emergency spending available as part of a three-point plan to keep public services running as smoothly as possible as the virus spreads.

Asked about the impact the US flight ban would have on the countries it affected, Sunak told BBC Radio 4: “You are right, as I talked about yesterday, there will be an impact on the demand side of our economy as people are unable to spend in the way that they normally do and travel but it also affects supply chains for business and that impacts the supply side of our economy if those supply chains are disrupted.”

Source link