1.5m people advised to stay at home for 12 weeks to save their loved ones

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LONDON: The government has said that 1.5 million people will receive letters or text messages strongly advising them not to go out for 12 weeks to protect themselves.

It comes as the PM asked the UK not to visit loved ones on Mother’s Day, and follow social distancing guidelines.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked people to heed the advice, saying “do it for loved ones who will die if you don’t”. The number of people who are dying in the UK with Coronavirus are rising day by day.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on the public to join a “collective national effort” and follow social distancing guidance, warning the NHS could be “overwhelmed”.

At-risk people include those who have received organ transplants, those living with severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis or those who have specific cancers, such as blood or bone marrow.

In a message to the country, Mr Johnson said: “The numbers are very stark, and they are accelerating. “The Italians have a superb health care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand.

He said the UK is only “two or three” weeks behind Italy, adding that he recognised the government was imposing measures “never seen before either in peace or war” – but said they were essential. There have been more than 300,000 cases of the virus worldwide with more than 13,000 deaths.

Mayor Sadiq Khan echoed the PM’s call for social distancing. Appealing to the public, he said: “Don’t leave home unless you have to, don’t use public transport unless essential… do it for loved ones who will die if you don’t.”

Mr Khan told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show that additional restrictions in London may have to be “considered” if people in the capital “continue to act in a way that’s leading to this disease spreading”. Under emergency legislation going through Parliament next week, airports could be shut and people held on public health grounds, while immigration officials could place people in isolation.

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.”