BUSINESSES are being urged to “prepare for the worst” as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

Dorset Chamber warned companies to expect stricter government measures in an effort to tackle the escalating outbreak.

Its message followed the county’s first death linked to the coronavirus and concerns about the number of people who mixed in public at the weekend despite government calls for social distancing.

Speaking ahead of Boris Johnson’s address to the UK last night, Dorset Chamber chief executive Ian Girling said: “All businesses need to be prepared for the worst and brace themselves for strict new government measures, which could come very quickly.

“I have been astounded at the blatant disregard some members of the public have shown for the official guidance and fully expect the government to get tough.

“I would urge everyone to rigorously follow the government advice, particularly about social distancing.

“As a chamber we are totally committed to supporting our members and non-members in the wider business community in Dorset.

“We will continue to be there for businesses, and have a comprehensive section on our website with guidance, advice and support, which is being updated daily or as developments happen.

“Our Dorset Gateway support service is fielding a huge number of calls. We have stepped up this service with support from the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, including a dedicated team to provide assistance for businesses.”

The chamber is telling businesses how to access the government support through its website and Dorset Gateway service.

Mr Girling is also posting daily videos to LinkedIn giving information about where to get help. So far, they have been watched more than 10,000 times

Dorset Chamber has also joined with town chambers, including those in Bournemouth, Ferndown, Shaftesbury and Sturminster Newton to call for more support.