Two more people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK deaths to 10.
There are now 596 confirmed cases in the UK, up from 456 on Wednesday – with 491 in England, 60 in Scotland, 20 in Northern Ireland and 25 in Wales.
It comes as the government is expected to announce within hours that it is stepping up its coronavirus response.
It is anticipated the UK will switch to tactics aimed at delaying its spread, rather than containing it.
The latest two deaths were an 89-year-old at Charing Cross Hospital in London and a woman in her 60s at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, NHS England said. They both had underlying health conditions.
As of 09:00 GMT, a total of 29,764 people had been tested for the virus in the UK.
The rise in confirmed cases – of 140 – is the first time the day-on-day increase has been more than 100.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has labelled the outbreak of the disease as a pandemic.
Schools, colleges and other public facilities in the Republic of Ireland are to close until 29 March.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to sign off plans to move from the “containment” phase of the outbreak to “delay” at the Cobra meeting on Thursday.
Speaking as the meeting continued, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the UK has moved into the delay phase.
She added that the Scottish government has decided that from Monday gatherings of more than 500 people will be cancelled – to reduce pressure on frontline services.
Overnight, US President Donald Trump suspended travel to the US from 26 European countries – but not the UK or Ireland.
In other developments:
- Three Leicester City players have self-isolated after showing symptoms of coronavirus
- Durham University has cancelled classroom based lessons from Mondayand the London School of Economics has also said that “all teaching activity” and exams will be done online
- Scottish Secretary Alister Jack suggested new UK measures could include requiring people to stay at home if they have a raised temperature combined with symptoms of a cold
- Barchester, which runs more than 200 care homes across the UK, has asked visitors to stay away
- A cabinet minister was confirmed as being in self-isolation while awaiting test results after coming into contact with minister Nadine Dorries, who has tested positive for the virus
- The Italian government forced all shops except food stores and pharmacies to close as the country strengthens its lockdown due to the virus
- Real Madrid footballers have gone into quarantine after a basketball player who shares training facilities with the La Liga club tested positive for the virus
- McLaren have withdrawn from this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix after a team member tested positive
- Princess Cruises, which has seen more than 700 cases of the disease reported on its cruise ships, has paused operations until 10 May
The UK is currently in the “containment” phase – the first stage of the government’s four-part plan:
- Research – which runs alongside the other phases
Delay is where “social distancing” measures will be considered – which could include restrictions on public gatherings above a certain number of people, although this is not thought likely at this stage.
The move could also result in people who show even minor signs of respiratory tract infections – such as a cough – or a fever soon being told to self-isolate.
Speaking to BBC News, deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said the introduction of social distancing measures should come at “exactly the right time”.
She also warned that members of the public wearing face masks could be putting themselves at more risk of contracting the virus – if they touch it with unwashed hands or put it on a surface they have not cleaned.
“You can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in,” she said.
Source: BBC News