What is the Coronavirus delay phase and what would that mean for the UK?

12 March 2020, 16:08 | Updated: 12 March 2020, 17:06

Britain has moved into the delay phase of the Coronavirus
Britain has moved into the delay phase of the Coronavirus. Picture: Getty

Boris Johnson will deliver a speech on the UK's plans for the next stage of Coronavirus response this afternoon.

The UK may be about to enter the delay phase of Coronavirus response as the number of cases in the country jumps to 590, with 10 people having died from the illness.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency COBRA meeting today to decide on the next course of action for the UK - and it has been predicted by some that we may enter the 'delay' phase.

Read more: Coronavirus travel advice: can you still go on holiday to Spain, France, Italy and the USA?

What is the delay phase?

The delay phase is part two of the government's four-step response to delaying Coronavirus.

It would come after phase one, contain, which was efforts to contain the virus by keeping track of those infected to attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

However, as cases of Coronavirus increase rapidly, the government is now looking into the delay phase.

It's official planning document describes the delay phase as: “Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season.”

Read more: Coronavirus UK map: Where in Britain are the confirmed COVID-19 cases as cases rise to 590?

Boris Johnson is expected to deliver a speech on the delay phase this afternoon
Boris Johnson is expected to deliver a speech on the delay phase this afternoon. Picture: Getty

What does the delay phase mean for the UK?

The delay phase would mean that the government introduced more drastic measures to slow the rate of the disease.

These measures would include potentially closing schools (although it has been reported that this won't happen in the UK just yet), encouraging people to work from home (if possible) and postponing or cancelling large gatherings.

The government said: “Delaying the spread of the disease requires all of us to follow the advice set out below. The benefits of doing so are that if the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, we can reduce significantly the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges (societal or medical) that the colder months bring.

“The Delay phase also buys time for the testing of drugs and initial development of vaccines and/or improved therapies or tests to help reduce the impact of the disease.”

Will schools close?

At present, there has been no confirmation that schools will be closing. However, it has been predicted by many experts that the decision to close schools will be made eventually.

The UK looks to be now entering the delay phase of Coronavirus response
The UK looks to be now entering the delay phase of Coronavirus response. Picture: Getty

What are the last two phases?

The next two phases would be to 'research' and 'mitigate'. The research phase would focus on working out whether the virus will become seasonal, like flu, as well as look into vaccines.

Mitigate - stage four - would be to focus on treating at-risk members of the public while supporting hospitals as they care for patients.


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