Coronavirus live blog as it happened: latest as UK travellers urged to return home and PM to address nation on new measures
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Coronavirus live blog, March 23
Last updated: Thursday, 01 January, 1970, 01:00
- Latest figures show 5,683 confirmed cases in the UK, with 335 deaths
- Schools across the UK will not open today as shutdown continues
- Government considers imposing stricture social distancing measures as crowds flock to beaches and parks over the weekend
Closures to air routes may come in ‘next 48 hours’
British tourists have been warned that further closures to air routes may be announced in the next 48 hours, and may come without notice.
Tourists and short-stay travellers who are currently still abroad are being urged to return to the UK while commercial flight options are still available.
Last week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced that it was advising against all but essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days.
That advice has now been updated to include all non-essential travel within the UK, including holidays to second homes, camp sites and caravan parks.
The FCO said people should “remain in their primary residence” and avoid travelling unless it is essential, so as not to put additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.
In a statement, the FCO said: "Today's update reflects the pace at which international travel is becoming more difficult with the closure of borders, airlines suspending flights, airports closing, exit bans and further restrictions being introduced daily.
“Further closures to air routes may come in the next 48 hours, possibly without notice."
Landlords flouting pub closures risk losing their licence
The Home Secretary has warned that landlords who flout the order to close their pubs in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak “run the risk of losing their licences and livelihoods”.
Priti Patel described the actions of some pub owners who remained open for business as “not acceptable” and warned there are fines that will be put in place.
Speaking during Home Office questions, Ms Patel said: “The Government could not have been clearer that in order to save lives and to protect the public during this public health emergency, it is right that we practise social distancing in the way in which the Government has outlined, the Government is reinforcing, the chief medical officer and many others are reinforcing day in, day out.
"And with that, we ask the public to take responsibility and of course there are enforcement measures now in place through an SI (statutory instrument) that was put in place over the weekend when it comes to places of social gatherings and pubs and clubs and cafes for example."
A directive published by the Government said: "As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, closures are now enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health.
"A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence."
It said the rules would extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland, adding: "Environmental health and trading standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate.
"Businesses that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines.
"As a further measure, and if needed, businesses that fail to comply could also face the loss of their alcohol licence."
Fewer than 10% of pupils in school
Less than 10 per cent of pupils were in school today, a snapshot of 670 UK schools revealed.
The majority of the schools were in England (94 per cent), with the rest in Wales and Northern Ireland, and were mainly secondary.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which conducted the poll, said that in 86 per cent of schools, the percentage of pupils attending lessons was between one and five per cent.
The news comes following the Prime Minister’s announcement all UK schools were to close to pupils as of Friday 20 March, except those of key workers and vulnerable children.
PM to announce new measures on tackling coronavirus
The Prime Minister is to announce new measures on tackling the coronavirus outbreak this evening.
Boris Johnson will address the nation from No 10 Downing Street at 8.30pm tonight (23 Mar), amid calls for tougher measures to help stem the spread of the virus.
The planned daily press conference at 5pm was delayed due to a COBRA meeting, with Mr Johnson instead scheduling a pre-recorded address to the nation.
The Prime Minister’s statement will come following calls from the Foreign Secretary for all British travellers overseas to return to the UK while commercial routes are still running.
A number of air routes have been halted due to the growing crisis, with the UK death toll today reaching 335, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the global pandemic is “accelerating”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was willing to take “more action” if needed to contain the spread, marking a sign the UK could be heading towards a stricter lockdown.