By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) – The British government issued new health advice to the elderly and children on Thursday as the country's coronavirus plan transitions from "contain" to "delay" and the social and economic impact increases.
A total of 590 cases have been confirmed so far in the U.K., with 10 deaths within the country.
After calling an emergency government meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
Vallance noted the true number of infections in the country was most likely between 5,000 and 10,000.
Johnson said: "We have all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation. Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that is not right. Due to the lack of immunity this disease is more dangerous.
"It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."
He predicted that the government would have to take further precautions in "the next few weeks," including the possibility that if coronavirus symptoms emerged in a member of a household "we will be asking everyone in that household to stay at home."
"I want to signal now that this is coming down the track," said Johnson.
The government said the mildly ill should self-isolate, discouraging the elderly from going on cruises, and schools from taking students on school trips abroad.
However, Johnson ruled out at the current time school closures or banning large gatherings.
He said major events could be canceled in the near future to lessen the burden on the public health service.
Scotland banned gatherings of more than 500 people and Ireland closed down schools, though the national U.K. government has yet to follow suit.
Britain's Electoral Commission also recommended on Thursday postponing local elections due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The opposition Labour Party, which is currently undergoing a leadership election, canceled a special conference scheduled for April 4, when they would announce the winner. Instead, they will hold a "scaled-back event."
The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 114 countries.
The global death toll is now over 4,900, with more than 134,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared the outbreak "a pandemic."