Emergency coronavirus legislation to be rushed through House of Commons on Monday

Emergency legislation giving ministers greater powers to deal with the Covid-19 crisis will be rushed through the Commons on Monday.

The Coronavirus Bill - totalling 329 pages - enables action to increase the available health and social care workforce, ease the burden on frontline staff, slow the spread of the virus, manage the deceased with respect and support people through the crisis.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs that all stages of the Bill would be considered by members on Monday, before it progresses to the Lords later in the week.

The legislation, published on Thursday, set out powers for the police to detain people suspected of having coronavirus and send them for testing. People who fail to do so could be fined up to £1,000.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said all stages of the bill will be considered on Monday. Credit: PA

Other measures include powers for ministers to write to an operator of a port requiring their operation be suspended and for events or gatherings to be cancelled.

Food suppliers would also have to provide information to the appropriate authority if all or part of a food supply chain is being disrupted or is at risk of disruption.

The legislation, which is time-limited for two years, also modifies current laws to enable coroners to conduct an inquest without a jury for anyone whose death was caused by Covid-19.

Local authorities will also be given the power to decide what happens to dead bodies and their disposal to ensure excess deaths do not overwhelm the system, and funeral directors acting on behalf of a family will be able to register a person's death.

Exams in England and Wales have been cancelled. Credit: PA

UK schools will close to all pupils except vulnerable children and those of key workers in a bid to halt the disease’s spread.

Schools in England, Wales and Scotland will close from Friday and Northern Ireland schools will close from Monday.

GCSEs and A-levels in both England and Wales will be cancelled – although the Prime Minister said there are plans for students to receive qualifications.

A decision on whether exams will sit in Scotland has not yet been taken and in Northern Ireland it is expected pupils will not sit summer exams.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told ITV News: "This is a decision no education secretary would want to make in terms of closing schools and scrapping all the exams.

"But it was something we had to do following the scientific and medical advice as by doing this, it is another weapon in our battle in terms of stopping the spread of coronavirus."

He added that schools will only reopen "when the scientific and medical advice says having schools open is not going to have any effect on spreading the pandemic".

"We've got to be realistic that this is something that is going to be just for a few weeks. That's why we had to make a decision to scrap the exam process," Mr Williamson said.

"While we'd like to see schools opening at the earliest possible opportunity, we equally have to be realistic that this may well take us to the summer term."

TfL announced up to 40 stations would be shut from Thursday. Credit: PA

Universities have called for clarity on the implications of cancelling exams with Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, saying: “Students should not lose out on the opportunity to go on to university this year because of the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“We are committed to working closely with the government, UCAS, examination regulators and school leaders on the practical implications of this and hope there will be clarity on this for students, parents, teachers and university admissions staff as soon as possible.”

Analysis from Edge Health suggested the NHS will face substantial pressures on critical care beds as the outbreak continues.

According to their modelling, there will be a shortfall of 2,900 beds in the Midlands at “peak Covid-19 ventilator demand”, while the south west has the fewest critical care beds and will need a 600% increase, or 1,900, to meet demand.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will table the Emergency Coronavirus Bill. Credit: PA