Hancock warns of 'tough' few weeks ahead

Health minister Matt Hancock gestures as he talks about coronavirus at the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce in London, Britain, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Health minister Matt Hancock warned on Thursday of “tough” weeks ahead in the battle to combat the spread of coronavirus, but added that the government was not planning to shut schools and universities at this stage.

“In the coming weeks, it will be tough, but with calm heads and clear determination, together we can see it through,” Hancock told a British Chambers of Commerce conference.

Scientific advice suggested that cancelling large public events brought no benefits if people undertook basic hygiene measures, Hancock said.

He added that the government was looking at providing extra support for those who are not eligible for statutory sick pay ahead of next week’s budget.

Reporting by David Milliken, writing by Andy Bruce; editing by Stephen Addison