Government to rush in emergency laws next week to help tackle coronavirus crisis
The Government is set to rush in sweeping emergency laws in an attempt to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The measures, which are set to be introduced next week, could see schools, councils and the rest of the public sector given powers to suspend laws and regulations to help deal with the virus outbreak.
Teachers and nursery workers could be allowed to suspend rules over maximum class sizes, and ministers are considering removing laws that limit lorry drivers’ working hours to protect supply chains.
In the event that NHS staff levels collapse because of the virus, military doctors could also be sent into hospitals to help patients.
According to the Times, the Boris Johnson has been told that if the virus becomes a pandemic in Britain, the NHS could be overwhelmed but the economy would recover quickly.
Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, has told ministers that measures to restrict mass public gatherings, such as cancelling sports events and public transport, could “flatten the peak” of the outbreak.
He said: “Flattening the peak is very good for the NHS, it may not be good for society and we’re going to have to think that through.”
The virus is spreading rapidly across Europe, with a man in Surrey last night becoming the first person to contract the disease from within the UK.
Professor Whitty said: “The virus was passed on in the UK. It’s is not clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad.”
Boris Johnson is set to chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday to discuss plans to deal with a coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
The Government has also ended its long-running boycott of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and will put ministers on the show to discuss their response to the virus.
Speaking on Friday after the Foreign Office confirmed the death of a British man in Japan, the Prime Minister said: “Obviously our thoughts are very much with the family of the victim in Yokohama, the UK national and the Foreign Office is doing everything they can to support.
“But on the wider issue of the coronavirus, which obviously is of great concern to people, I just want to reassure everybody that the NHS is making every possible preparation.
“And actually I saw myself some of the work that’s being done across the NHS to get ready for that, just last night.
“And as you can imagine the issue of coronavirus is something that is now the Government’s top priority. And I’ve just had a meeting with the Chief Medical Officer, the Secretary of State for Health and others, talking about the preparations that we need to make.”
He added: “We will, in the course of the next few days, be issuing further advice about how to respond and how we’re going to deal with any potential outbreak of the illness.”