LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government will introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, an escalation of its crisis plan which critics had said was too relaxed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted pressure to take some of the stringent measures adopted by other European countries to slow the spread of the virus.

But on Friday, England’s soccer Premier League suspended all matches until April 4 and other events such as the London Marathon were postponed by their organisers.

“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,” a government source said.

“We will publish this legislation next week.”

British media said the ban on mass gatherings could come into force from next weekend and could affect events such as the Glastonbury music festival, the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Grand National horse race.

Reporting by Roshan Abraham in Bengaluru and William Schomberg in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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