LONDON - Millions of British workers have stayed at home today as commuters found car parks empty, train carriages deserted and seats available on the busiest routes because of the coronavirus crisis.
Mainline railways stations in the UK's towns and cities are largely empty as were Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports while major shopping streets in London usually teeming with people also eerily quiet.
Transport for London, who had a Jubilee Line train driver test positive for coronavirus today, has said that on buses and the Tube, used by 5million each day, journeys are down two per cent in a week.
As many as 20million of the country's 33million working population could soon be working from home, according to an office survey by IWG Global Workplace.
Social media users reported quieter than usual trains travelling to cities including London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle, Birmingham and Cambridge.
One Twitter user said: 'It's so quiet for the rush hour train to Newcastle ... everyone in scarves or masks and you can tell the sheer fear has hit.' Another wrote: 'Eerily quiet on the trains this morning but business as usual on the ward. Has the feel of those weird days between Christmas and New Year.'
The mass stayaway came after the Prime Minister said people with even mild symptoms, including a continuous cough or high temperature, must stay at home for at least seven days.
Boris Johnson's guidance was issued yesterday with between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK already thought to be infected with coronavirus, when the official figures show 596 cases and ten deaths.
The Government's softer approach to shutting down communities when compared to other countries has triggered a row as critics including former ministers Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart branding the decision to keep schools open and not to ban major gatherings 'concerning' and 'dangerous'.
As the UK's coronavirus situation escalates, global developments include:
A Chinese spokesman accused the US military of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan – the Chinese city where the COVID-19 outbreak began at the end of December;
A 37-year-old US woman who beat the infection claimed she didn't suffer the tell-tale symptom of a cough and instead only had a headache and tingling arms and legs;
French President Emmanuel Macron declared the pandemic as France's worst health crisis in a century and announced schools, universities and day-care centres would be shut from Monday;
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa ordered the shut-down of schools and universities and placed limits on the number of people in nightclubs, restaurants and shopping centres at any one time;
Belgium announced the closure of all schools, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs and also banned recreational and sporting events in its fight to contain the growing epidemic;
Danish authorities called on shoppers to avoid excessive stockpiling after it closed schools and universities and suspended indoor events with more than 100 participants;
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed gatherings of 500 people or more would be stopped from Monday and school trips would be cancelled;
Germany shut nightclubs and schools after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that up to 70 per cent of the country's population – 58million people – could contract the coronavirus;
Spain locked down four towns in Catalonia, shut schools and universities and suspended Parliament after its deputy prime minister was in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the virus;
An Italian medical chief died of the coronavirus at the age of 67, as the death toll in the country – the centre of Europe's escalating crisis – jumped to over 1,000;
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government will effectively ban 'non essential' public gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.
London Bridge station in central London was deserted during rush hour this morning as millions of people start to work from home (FA)