Emergency Coronavirus Bill to give government new powers to arrest and isolate people

Police will be given powers to arrest and isolate people to protect public health, under emergency coronavirus legislation set out by the Government.

The Emergency Coronavirus Bill - to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday - will give ministers the powers they say they need to respond to the threat of the virus and support the NHS.

They include allowing the Border Force to suspend operations at airports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to ensure security, and the greater use of video hearings in court cases.

Recently retired NHS and adult social staff will be enabled to return to work without any loss of pension rights.

People who volunteer to help care for patients in the health and social care sector will be given additional employment safeguards enabling them to "pause" their main jobs for up to four weeks while they help out.

Paperwork and administrative requirements in hospitals will be cut back to help doctors discharge patients more quickly when clinically appropriate, to free up beds for the seriously ill.

The Bill also allows for statutory sick pay to be paid to those self-isolating from day one, with small businesses able to claim it back from HM Revenue and Customs.

The legislation will be time-limited for two years and not all measures will come into force immediately.

It will allow the UK Government and the devolved administrations to "switch on" the new powers when they are needed, and to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of chief medical officers of the four nations.

The government unveiled new measures to shore up the economy in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The Emergency Coronavirus Bill this week will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximise their effectiveness, but crucially they give the Government the powers it needs to protect lives."

The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, added: "Our approach to responding to this outbreak has and will remain driven by the scientific and clinical evidence so we do the right thing at the right time.

"The measures included in this Bill will help support our frontline workers, protect the public and delay the peak of the virus to the summer months when the NHS is typically under less pressure."

The Bill comes after the government ramped up its response to the crisis, as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Cabinet the coronavirus pandemic is a “war” that must be won.

Mr Johnson outlined more stringent social distancing advice was outlined by Mr Johnson on Monday, while in a daily update on Tuesday, the Chancellor unveiled a multi-billion pound package of measures to help businesses through the coronavirus crisis.

Rishi Sunka confirmed during the second of the Government's daily briefings that he was extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the hospitality sector and funding grants of up to £25,000 for smaller businesses with a rateable value less than £51,000.

Those in financial difficulty due to coronavirus will be offered a three-month mortgage holiday, he added.

Also on Tuesday, it was announced that 71 people who have tested positive for coronavirus have died and that 1,950 have developed the illness.

However, there are fears as many as 55,000 people in the UK could have Covid-19.

The UK government has advised against all but essential foreign travel. Credit: PA

On Monday, the Prime Minister laid out strict measures to try and stem the rate of transmissions and lessen the impact on the NHS.

The public have been asked to undertake social distancing measures to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic with some vulnerable groups, including pregnant women and the over-70s, told to take extra care.

Individuals were told to work from home where possible and avoid pubs, cafes and restaurants while theatres across the country shut their doors.

People with the most significant problems were to be “shielded” from contact for 12 weeks, The DHSC said further detail will be set out on this in due course.

In a hearing before MPs on Tuesday, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said keeping the death toll to under 20,000 would be a good outcome.

In a bid to deal with an anticipated influx of virus patients, the NHS has cancelled all non-emergency surgery and is working to discharge medically fit people to free up beds.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know