UK postpones local elections as COVID-19 cases jump to 798
London (UK) Mar14: The British government on Friday postponed the local and mayoral elections in England slated for May 7 for one year, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country reached 798.
"We will bring forward legislation to postpone local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections until May next year," said a government spokesperson.
The postponement came after England polling watchdog recommended delaying the local elections to "mitigate" the impact of coronavirus.
The Electoral Commission said that there were "growing risks to the delivery of the polls" and "significant numbers" of people may not be able to cast their ballots, with the number of COVID-19 infections rising, according to the English newspaper Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Britain saw the highest 24-hour rise of 208. It is also the first time the day-on-day increase has been higher than 200.
A London Underground driver tested positive earlier on the day for the novel coronavirus and at least 11 MPs were in self-isolation following advice from public health authorities.
According to health authorities, the true figure for people infected with the novel coronavirus in Britain might be between 5,000 and 10,000.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government confirmed the first death in Scotland of a COVID-19 patient, bringing the total death in Britain to 11.
"The patient, who was being treated by Lothian Health Board was an older person who had underlying health conditions. No further information will be available to protect patient confidentiality," said Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Catherine Calderwood in a statement.
Also on Friday, Queen Elizabeth II cancelled her scheduled visits to Cheshire and Camden in North London due to the coronavirus outbreak, said a Buckingham Palace statement.
Earlier Friday, a Foreign Minister spokesperson issued travel advice to Spain, saying that "we are advising against all but essential travel to the regions of Madrid, La Rioja and the municipalities of La Bastida, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro."
"The travel advice has been updated because these areas have been designated by the Spanish authorities as 'areas of community transmission'," the spokesperson said. "We are not advising those in Spain to leave as transport routes out of the country remain open."
The British government announced Thursday that the country has switched from the "containment" phase to "delay" in response to the spread of virus in the country, a move to encourage more "social distancing" among the Britons.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the threat of coronavirus as "the worst public health crisis in a generation," but he would not follow the example of other countries to close schools.
Johnson insisted that his government was being guided by scientific advice, saying closing schools "could do more harm than good."
However, Jeremy Hunt, the former British health secretary, called for more aggressive steps, including closing elderly care homes to outside visitors.
Meanwhile, experts criticized the measures as too limited to have a major effect and inadequate given the scale of the looming threat to health.
"I can't see that any of these measures are going to have a big impact...None of that is really going to affect transmission in the UK," Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, was quoted as saying by a daily.