Coronavirus: Pubs could close across UK to fight killer bug after Italy and Spain lockdown, says Health Secretary

PUBS and restaurants could be closed down across Britain as part of a drastic plan to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the government may follow others in Europe and shut all bars and diners.

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Asked if the UK could follow Italy and Spain in closing restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops, he told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "We haven’t ruled that out.

"We will do what is necessary because the top priority is to protect life and you do that by protecting the vulnerable and protecting the NHS."

He earlier told Marr the government would remain "transparent" in the fight against coronavirus.

"We can see the number of infections is rising and that is why we are moving through the action plan to take the further steps that are needed," he said.

"We've always said we will do the right thing at the right time…guided by the very best science.

"Of course we want to beat this virus and stopping it will take some quite extraordinary interventions."

The minster was speaking after leaked government papers revealed plans to tackle the pandemic by temporarily closing pubs sometime after next week.

The plan is included in a series of extreme measures being prepared by Whitehall to prevent the healthcare system from being deluged by COVID-19.

Some pubs in Ireland have already temporarily closed resulting in the hashtag #CloseThePubs circulating on Twitter for much of the day.

Other measures being planned include making everyone over the age of 70 self-isolate for at least four months.

Officials will change advice in weeks to urge they stay inside in a bid to save lives as the deadly bug spreads.

The Health Secretary told Sky's Sophy Ridge this morning: "We set out how we are prepared to do that – for the elderly to protect themselves, to shield themselves by self-isolating.

"We will be setting out when that is necessary – we don't want to do that too soon."

He said the measures would start "in the coming weeks".

Officials could also take over hotels and other buildings and use them as temporary hospitals, close pubs, bars and restaurants, close schools and plough cash into the speedy manufacture of respirators.

But Chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are concerned that some elderly people could die at home from neglect if the quarantine is enforced.

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