The British government is set to give police and immigration officials the right to arrest people and put them in isolation in other to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
An Emergency Coronavirus Bill, which will be tabled at the Parliament on Thursday, will give ministers the powers they say they need to respond to the threat of the virus and support the NHS.
In a statement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The new measures we will be introducing in the Emergency Coronavirus Bill this week will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximise their effectiveness.’
He also confirmed that the new law will also allow more phone or video hearings in court cases to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will enable Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to maintain security.
Hancock said: ‘We are doing everything we can to protect lives and support the NHS, guided by the best scientists and clinicians in the world.
‘The new measures we will be introducing in 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.
‘By planning for the worst and working for the best we will get through this, but this is a national effort and we must all work together ? from businesses prioritising the welfare of their employees, to people thoroughly washing their hands.
‘I also want to pay tribute to our brilliantly selfless NHS and social care staff who are working tirelessly to care for our friends and loved ones in this unprecedented period.’
England’s Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘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.
‘It is important everyone continues to play their part by avoiding non-essential contact and travel as well as washing their hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water.’
On Tuesday, the death toll from coronavirus in the UK rose to 71 with 1,950 confirmed cases, an increase of 407 on the previous day.