BORIS Johnson has said the UK is still in the containment phase of its coronavirus response, but warned containment is "extremely unlikely" to work on its own. 

Speaking at a conference after today's emergency Cobra meeting, the Prime Minister and health bosses explained what the next steps are in fighting the spread of the illness.

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The Prime Minister said:  "We are preparing various actions to slow the spread of this disease in order to reduce the strain it places on the NHS.

"The more we can delay the peak of the spread to the summer, the better the NHS will be able to manage."

Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, said that “probably within the next 10-14 days” there will be “a situation where we say everybody who has even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self isolating for seven days afterwards”.

He went on to say all hospital patients with pneumonia and other respiratory infections would be tested for coronavirus. 

Whitty said: "At the moment we are screening everybody who is in intensive care for coronavirus if they have symptoms that are compatible with coronavirus - so if they have a very bad pneumonia.

"We will be extending that out now, as from tomorrow, to everybody who has a significant enough pneumonia or other respiratory tract infection to get into hospital at all."

Whitty went on: "What we are moving now to is a phase when we will be having to ask members of the general public to do different things than they would normally do."

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But he stressed the importance of timing because "anything we do, we have got to be able to sustain" throughout the peak of the outbreak.

"There is a risk if we go too early people will understandably get fatigued and it will be difficult to sustain this over time," he said.

"So getting the timing right is absolutely critical to making this work."

The news came after it emerged the Government had no plans to close schools or put in place "social distancing" measures despite the number of coronavirus cases now topping 300. 

Meanwhile, Italy has put 16 million people under quarantine in the northern part of the country in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19.