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Coronavirus: Newmarket's MP Matt Hancock says Britain is "at war with an invisible killer"

Newmarket's MP has said Britain is at "war with an invisible killer" as the government ramps up its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, tonight told the House of Commons the outbreak was "the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation" and the government's response was "unprecedented in peace time".

“We’ll get through this by working through our action plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate the virus and that plan has two overriding aims - to protect the NHS by building it up and flattening the curve and to protect life by safeguarding those who are most vulnerable," Mr Hancock said.

Matt Hancock in the House of Commons (31740516)
Matt Hancock in the House of Commons (31740516)

"We will do the right thing, at the right time, based on the best scientific advice," he said. "We will give the NHS whatever it needs, and we will do whatever it takes."

Earlier today Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said everybody should avoid non-essential travel. He urged people to work from home and avoid pubs, clubs, and theatres in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The government has previously stated anyone with a high temperature or a new and continuous cough should self-isolate, but the prime minister updated the guidance to include the entire household and should stay inside for 14 days.

The government will also withdraw its support for mass gatherings to free up the number of frontline workers, but schools will remain open for the moment.

And women who are pregnant, those who are over 70, and other adults who are normally advised to have the flu vaccine, should "take particular care to minimise their social contact" the government has said.

Mr Hancock told the Commons: "The more people that follow the public heath advice the less people need to bring in draconian actions that I am keen to avoid," he told MPs. "We mustn't forget the simple things we can all do. Washing your hands, following the public health advice if you have symptoms, looking out for the most vulnerable in the community."