All mass gatherings and sports events are set to be banned from next weekend, it can be revealed.
In a major escalation of the coronavirus crisis, ministers are preparing to introduce emergency legislation early next week to allow this.
The unprecedented move puts key summer events such as the Glastonbury Festival, VE Day commemorations, Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon tennis championships, the Grand National and Royal Ascot under threat.
It comes after sports bodies confirmed the postponement of the London Marathon, the suspension of Premier League football matches and the cancellation of the England cricket team’s Sri Lanka tour.
A Whitehall source denied the Government was binning its previous scientific advice, saying the change of heart reflected concerns about the pressure mass gatherings put on police and ambulance services that may be depleted because of the virus.
‘We have drafted emergency legislation to give the Government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations,’ the source said. ‘We will publish this legislation next week.’