Boris Johnson‘s spokesman has insisted the government will refuse to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit transition period, despite the rapid global spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus outbreak.

It comes as the number of cases of covid-19 continues to rise in the UK, with the chief medical officer warning on Thursday that an epidemic is looking “likely”.

Pressed on whether an outbreak of the virus could derail the talks over the future trading agreement with Brussels, and force the government to request an extension to the talks, the prime minister’s spokesman said “no”. 

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“That work has been continuing throughout, and I’d expect it to carry on as planned – no change,” they added.

No 10 also confirmed that geographical information of coronavirus cases in the UK would continue to be updated on a daily basis – just 24 hours after the Department for Health said it would switch to a weekly format.

Appearing to confirm a u-turn on the issue, the spokesman added: “I think the prime minister and the chief medical officer have both said this morning we will provide geographic information on cases – it will be at 2pm, it will be with a 24-hour delay to make sure that all of the details are correct.”

Talks over the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU began on Monday, and are expected to alternate between government buildings in London and European Commission offices in Brussels over the coming months.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not request an extension to the 11-month transition period that expires in December 2020. 

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