May's local and mayoral elections will be postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been announced.
The news comes after the Electoral Commission said on Thursday (12 March) that the polls should be delayed until the autumn to "mitigate" the impact of the virus.
The polling watchdog had said there were "growing risks" to the delivery of the polls, due on 7 May 2020. Downing Street said it would be impractical to go ahead with the elections as planned, as they would come during the peak of the spread of coronavirus.
Elections will now take place in 2021
Elections will now take place in 2021, and this includes the London, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Teeside mayoral elections. Current mayors will get an extra year of their terms guaranteed.
London mayoral candidate Rory Stewart tweeted, "The right decision. We should now move more rapidly to close gatherings, and schools; extend the isolation period; and restrict non-essential visits to care homes (who have few back up options for patients if they have to close.)"
Earlier Labour called on the Government to suspend the local elections due to the "public health concern".
Local elections were postponed in 2001 because of the foot and mouth outbreak.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus. Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days. People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.
Should I avoid public places?
Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS