Jacob Rees-Mogg advises public to 'wash your hands to the national anthem' to avoid coronavirus

Jacob Rees-Mogg advised people to wash their hands to the tune of the national anthem. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has advised people to “wash your hands to the national anthem” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Boris Johnson later suggested using the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’, twice, would be the most effective.

When asked by reporters whether the government has the spread of the virus under control, Rees-Mogg replied: “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, keep it in your handkerchief.”

The leader of the House of Commons gave the response as he entered an emergency Cobra meeting called by the prime minister at the Cabinet Office on Monday morning.

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The meeting was called after 12 more people in England and one in Scotland tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of UK cases to 40.

After the emergency session, the prime minister said the virus was "likely to become more significant in the days and weeks ahead".

He said the government was taking steps to try to stem the spread of the virus and repeated Rees-Mogg’s advice for people to wash their hands regularly to help contain the disease.

Boris Johnson at the Public Health England National Infection Service in north London on Sunday. (Henry Nicholls)

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He said: "I think it's important to stress that this [the coronavirus] is a problem that is likely to become more significant for this country in the course of the next days and weeks, and therefore we will be making every possible preparation for that.

"We've also agreed a plan so that as and when it starts to spread - as I'm afraid it looks likely that it will - we are in a position to take the steps that will be necessary, will be reasonable, to contain the spread of the disease as far as we can, and also to protect the most vulnerable."

'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, keep it in your handkerchief,' Jacob Rees-Mogg said. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Mr Johnson said that "the single most useful thing we can all do to support our NHS, to stop the spread of the coronavirus, is to wash our hands - two times happy birthday, hot water and soap", and that people should otherwise consider things "business as usual".

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends people wash their hands for the duration of the song "Happy Birthday", sung twice.

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Asked about potential school closures and other measures to control the spread, Mr Johnson said they would take the lead of scientific advisers and the UK's chief medical officers.

As the virus continues to spread across Europe, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk of the virus has increased from "moderate" to "moderate to high".