With coronavirus spreading like wildfire through Europe, the situation in each country is changing virtually by the hour.
In the UK, the government took a relatively relaxed approach to containing the virus until recently. Today, following a chilling and eye-opening data modelling publication from Imperial College London – and over 400 new confirmed cases within one day – the UK government changed course and is now planning to put emergency procedures and legislation in place.
We’ve compiled everything you need to know about the current situation in the UK, including flights, events, and using NHS services – fully up to date on March 17th, but subject to change.
The UK hasn’t closed its borders. However, many flights are being cancelled due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries and the drop in ticket sales. If you’re planning on taking a flight from or to the UK anytime soon, make sure you check your booking regularly for updates.
At airports, extreme caution is advised. Try to keep as much distance between yourself and others as possible, wash your hands properly and as often as you can, and use anti-bacterial gel on your hands frequently.
Before flying out, remember to check the current situation in your destination country – your flight might not be cancelled, but you may experience delays and difficulties on the other side. For instance, some countries have introduced mandatory quarantines for passengers of all incoming flights, and others are not allowing foreign citizens to enter the country at all.
Accessing the health services
NHS services are still largely accessible, although it’s recommended to use them only when necessary. The current advice is to seek medical help only in real emergencies, and use the NHS emergency phone service (111), rather than heading down straight to the GP or hospital, whenever possible.
Beginning now (in March), the NHS is working on cancelling all non-essential elective procedures – so if you were scheduled for one of those, expect for it to be postponed.
At the time of writing (March 17th), quarantine is not one of the measures used in the UK. However, emergency legislation is currently being processed by the government, and if passed, it will give authorities the right to place individuals believed to be a threat to public health under obligatory quarantine.
In the meantime, people who display potential symptoms of coronavirus are asked to self-isolate. There has also been a suggestion to encourage those aged over 70 to remain at home and reduce social contact for the next 12 weeks, as a means to protect this particularly vulnerable group. However, the elderly will of course not be forced to comply.
Most schools remain in service in the UK, with a few exceptions closed due to students infected with coronavirus. Some higher education providers, such as Coventry University, are switching to online lectures and other remote alternatives in order to limit face-to-face contact.
That being said, many other countries in Europe have decided to close all of their schools, so it’s not unlikely that the UK will follow eventually. For now, though, lessons are taking place.
Arts, entertainment, and events
According to the most recent update from Downing Street, all cinemas, pubs, museums, and similar venues are to be closed until further notice. This is a safety measure intended to limit contact between large groups of people and curb the spread of the virus.
In addition, a number of events have been cancelled or postponed. BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend music festival and concerts by Avril Lavigne and The Who, among others, have been cancelled. Glastonbury Festival hasn’t announced cancellation or postponing so far, but this is likely to happen.
Sporting events are taking a hit too, with the London and Brighton Marathons postponed and the Premier League being temporarily suspended.
Before heading out to an event, it’s a good idea to double-check online whether it’s still going ahead. If you do attend any group events, make sure you follow the guidelines for staying as safe as possible.
Please note that while the above information is correct at the time of writing, the situation is ever-changing. It’s important to keep checking for updates and depend on the latest information. The official UK government website on coronavirus is a good place to start.