London, March 14 (IANS) Mass gatherings could be banned across the UK from as early as next weekend amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a government source said on Saturday.
The BBC quoted the source as saying that Ministers were drawing up plans with the government’s chief scientific adviser and chief medical adviser for the move in an effort to ease pressure on emergency services.
Scores of major sporting and cultural events have already been cancelled across the country in response to the pandemic which has infected a total of 798 people in the UK with 11 deaths.
“There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible,’ the source said.
“We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.”
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had earlier questioned the government’s decision to hold off cancelling large gatherings, describing the decision as “concerning”.
Acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey told the BBC that the government’s “rapid change” in tactic following the cancellation of sporting events suggests it is “playing catch-up with the rest of British society”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth welcomed the move, but urged the government to be “clear” about its plans.
But prominent events were still set to go ahead include the Grand National in April, the 75th anniversary VE Day commemorations and Chelsea Flower Show in May, and Glastonbury Festival in June.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that local and mayoral elections in May were being postponed for a year until May 2021.
New restrictions are also being imposed on visitor access to Parliament, while overseas travel by MPs and peers has been strongly discouraged.