Shoppers observe social distancing as they queue outside Sainsbury's

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Shoppers keep their distance from each other while queuing at Sainsbury’s

People who have ignored government advice aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic are “very selfish”, says the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said the government was willing to take “more action” if needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Over the weekend, photos emerged showing crowds of people visiting open spaces across many parts of the UK.

Emergency legislation that would grant powers aimed at tackling the pandemic will be debated by MPs later.

The UK’s death toll has reached 289, according to the latest figures – including a person aged 18 with an underlying health condition.

Meanwhile, people across the UK who are at most at risk from Covid-19 are being told stay at home for 12 weeks. The NHS in England has announced it has identified 1.5 million of the most at-risk people, while there are 200,000 in Scotland, 70,000 in Wales and 40,000 in Northern Ireland.

It comes as parents are urged to keep their children at home unless “absolutely necessary”, with schools across the UK now closed to most pupils.

There are now 5,683 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Hancock said he didn’t know why some people were ignoring the government’s advice.

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Media captionHealth Secretary Matt Hancock: “Incredibly unfair to socialise”

“It’s very selfish,” he told the Today programme. “The NHS is doing everything it can and preparing for the spread of this virus.

“If people go within two metres of others who they don’t live with then they’re helping to spread the virus – and the consequences of that costs lives and it means that, for everyone, this will go on for longer.”

The health secretary said the government advice on social distancing was “really clear” and people should stay two metres apart, staying at home if at all possible.

Asked whether the cabinet would be considering a firmer lockdown when it meets today, he added: “Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing.”

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the government is now considering closing all non-essential retail stores and introducing fines for people who ignore the current coronavirus advice.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed that everyone should stay at home if possible, adding that “life should not be carrying on as normal right now” and that shops not providing essential items should shut.

Labour has called on the government to increase lockdown measures to “keep people safe”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Other countries across the world have taken further far-reaching social distancing measures.

“We now call on the government to move to enforced social distancing and greater social protection as a matter of urgency.”

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Media captionWhat is social distancing?

Paul Whiteman, head of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said schools are struggling with staff numbers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“My appeal to the families of key workers is: this is not business as usual. Keep your family at home if at all possible,” he said.

It comes as the government says it is setting up “hubs” around the country to arrange deliveries of groceries and medicines to the people in the most at-risk group.

These include people with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions and people who have received organ transplants.

Councils, pharmacists and members of the Armed Forces will help and there will be opportunities for members of the public to volunteer.

The Excel conference centre in east London could potentially be used in the medical response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Defence said. A team of military planners has visited the site to determine how it might “benefit” the NHS.

Under the emergency legislation to be discussed by MPs, airports could shut and police would be able to force people with virus symptoms to isolate.

The proposals – set out last week – also include enabling recently retired NHS staff to return to work without any negative impact on their pensions; fast-tracking funeral arrangements; and allowing more court hearings to take place by phone or video.

The powers, which would have to be renewed every six months, are expected to be approved by MPs.

The government is also taking steps to address tax and pensions disincentives that could prevent retired police officers rejoining the service during the outbreak, Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

But, speaking in the Commons, she rejected calls for a police presence inside supermarkets, amid incidents of panic-buying,

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Media captionSaturday was the “busiest ever visitor day in living memory” in Snowdonia, officials say

Downing Street has said Boris Johnson would be prepared to take further actions if stricter measures were needed to enforce social distancing.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Our message is clear, people should stay at home if possible.

“This will save lives, protect the vulnerable and support the NHS.”

He said ministers will be looking at data on how much social interaction was continuing and if the information shows it has not stopped then the government would “need to take further measures”.

But the spokesman would not say whether extra controls could be brought in as early as today.

He added Tuesday’s cabinet meeting will see a “very significant” number of ministers taking part remotely.

In other key developments:



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