Published: 17:19, 16 March 2020
| Updated: 20:36, 16 March 2020
A Kent MP has defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson's warning people "must avoid all unnecessary social contact" in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
He urged the population to work from home and avoid pubs, clubs, and theatres, as officials prepare for a peak in cases of the virus, which has led to 53 deaths.
The government earlier stated anyone with a high temperature or a new and continuous cough should stay at home for 14 days, but the Prime Minister says this no longer goes far enough.
"According to SAGE (The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts), it looks as if we are now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve and without drastic action cases could double every five or six days," he said during a briefing at Downing Street.
"If you or anyone in your household has one of those two symptoms then you should stay at home for 14 days.
"That means, if possible you should not go out - even to buy food or essentials.
"If necessary you should ask for help from others for your daily necessities.
"And if that is not possible you should do what you can to limit social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.
"Even if you don't have symptoms and if no one in your household has symptoms there is more we need you to do now.
"Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.
"We need people to start working from home where they possibly can and you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres, and other such social venues.
"We should all only use the NHS when we really need to - please go online rather than ringing NHS 111."
Mr Johnson said the advice about avoiding all unnecessary social contact was particularly relevant to people aged and over 70, pregnant women, and those with health conditions."
He admitted the measures may appear "draconian", but were necessary to slow the spread of the virus and therefore the number of fatalities.
"We are asking people to do something which is difficult and disruptive of their lives," he said.
The most vulnerable in society are being asked to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks to help slow the spread of the disease and give the NHS the chance to cope.
The government's move to ban mass gatherings to curb the spread of the corona virus has been defended by the Kent MP and social care minister Helen Whately.
The MP was asked by presenter Cathy Newman during a Channel 4 interview: "What is the point of stopping people going to the pub if your kids are going to bring back this disease from school?"
The MP replied: "The overall approach that the government has been taking today day and since the whole corona crisis broke has been science-led.
"So, we are doing the best thing to save lives. We know the numbers have been going up so that is why you are hearing announcements that take us quite a significant step further. "So one of the things we are recommending is that people should reduce their social interaction and avoid unnecessary interaction and that includes going to the pub.
"On every step we take we have been careful to avoid unintended consequences.
"So, one thing is that if their children are not there, for parents there is the question of where they should go instead.
"A lot will go to their grandparents and as we have seen today, they are more vulnerable."
Ms Whately sidestepped a question about whether the government would take criminal action against those who who were in breach of the guidance on mass gatherings, saying: "I am not going to speculate on what we will do in weeks to come.
"What you have seen is the government taking steps to do what is right for the country and to protect people and life.
"This is a national effort and we all need to work together to protect the most vulnerable in society and to control the spread of the virus and that is happening hand in hand with increasing the capacity within the NHS for those who may need to be in hospital."
Meanwhile, entertainment venue the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone has announced the temporary suspension of all shows.
Mark Cornell, group chief executive officer of the Ambassador Theatre Group, said: "We understand that this decision comes as a disappointment, and a massive inconvenience... but ultimately we all want the same thing: the health and safety of our communities, and we believe this is the correct decision to make.
"Given the current ambiguity and lack of clarity as to how long our theatres may be closed for, we hope to provide you with an update within the next 48 hours regarding the exchange of tickets."
So far, 53 people in the UK have died, 1,543 have tested positive and 42,562 have been tested but do not have coronavirus.
In Kent, 14 cases have been confirmed. The first was discovered at Maidstone studios on March 2. The second case was a person who was known to the person involved in the first case.
Two cases in Medway forced a two-day closure of St John Fisher for a deep clean.