No 10 is still in talks about the size of crowd that will be forbidden but the drastic measure is likely to hit popular annual events like Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show and the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 75th VE Day anniversary commemorations are also now in doubt. Large crowds will be banned from next weekend after talks have been held with sports, arts and other industries affected.
Theatres, festivals, conferences, concerts, major sporting events and religious gatherings could all be hit.
The size of the gathering that will trigger the ban has not yet been decided, but Scotland has set the limit at 500 and other countries at 1,000.
Ministers are also talking to business leaders about increasing the number of employees who work from home.
Emergency legislation is being introduced in the Commons next week to give the government the powers it needs to ramp up its handling of the crisis.
Organisers have already been voluntarily axing major events, including the London marathon, as the contagion intensifies.
Top flight football in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has also been suspended.
Mr Johnson has faced criticism from some former ministers over his restrained response to the coronavirus outbreak.
But insiders said the new measures were being imposed only to ease the pressure on police and health services to allow them to focus resources on dealing with the virus.
A Whitehall source said: “Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.
“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.
“There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible. We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.
“For example, we are concerned about the burden large events put on public services – including the health service and the police – from dealing with coronavirus.
“Officials are working with industry bodies to identify how to support businesses that will be affected by this decision.
“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. We will publish this legislation next week.”
Music leaders have warned the pandemic could deal a “hammer blow” to the British industry.
Major acts such as The Who have already cancelled live dates.
Tom Kiehl, UK Music’s acting chief executive Tom Kiehl called on the Government to take “urgent steps” to protect against the impact, including “VAT holidays” for businesses and compensation in the event of cancellations.
He said: “The impact of the virus could deal a hammer blow to the British music industry and threaten the livelihoods of many people.
“It will hit not just those who are directly employed in our industry, but the wider supply chain such as caterers and other retailers who depend on our sector for work.”
Visitor access to Parliament is being restricted and commercial tours cancelled over fears about the spread of the virus.
MPs and peers are also being urged not to travel overseas or take guests onto the estate unless necessary.
But members of the public will still be able to watch debates and attend select committee hearings.
MPs, peers and other passholders will not face restrictions at the moments.
In a joint statement, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Speaker Lord Fowler said: “We are resolved that Parliament should, insofar as possible, continue to fulfil its important constitutional duties of passing legislation, holding Government to account and, crucially, representing the views of the people of the United Kingdom and making their voice heard.
“In order to preserve the operation of Parliament, it is our duty to take proportionate and reasonable measures to reduce the risk to those who work on the parliamentary estate and those who have to visit.
“We are clear that now is the time to be pragmatic; everyone in the country is being asked to strike a balance and it is right that we do the same.”
Members of the public will still be able to visit for a meeting with their MP or a member of the House of Lords if this is booked and agreed in advance.
It comes after Mr Johnson insisted a coordinated international response is crucial in tackling the coronavirus pandemic during phone calls with world leaders.
The Prime Minister spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian prime minister Justine Trudeau and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
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