Proposed emergency legislation to tackle coronavirus in the UK will allow police and immigration officials to detain a person who is, or might be "infectious," according to the government’s website.
“Public support and compliance is crucial and we are grateful for the flexibility people have shown, but we need to ensure police and immigration officers have the authority to enforce these measures where necessary. Therefore, the bill will enable the police and immigration officers to detain a person, for a limited period, who is, or may be, infectious and to take them to a suitable place to enable screening and assessment,” an outline of the "coronavirus bill" on the UK government websites said.
This is a step up from the March 3 government guidelines in which authorities could only detain those not respecting mandated quarantines. The bill will also enable UK Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports or transport hubs "if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security."
According to the UK government, the bill also increases the protections for health professionals and independent workers. It will be introduced to Parliament this week.
It will allow "recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work" without any impact in their pensions, reduce paperwork to allow quicker discharges, insure health professionals working outside their area of expertise and allow volunteers to pause their normal jobs up to four weeks, the government website said.
"This could benefit more than 3 million people who already volunteer in health and care settings and bolster the NHS’s capacity to respond to the virus," the outline said.
Independent workers in self-isolation without symptoms since day one will also be able to access statutory sick pay.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new measures “will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximize their effectiveness, but crucially they give the government the powers it needs to protect lives."
The legislation will be limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately, the website said.
"By planning for the worst and working for the best we will get through this," Hancock said in a statement.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said the UK's approach to COVID-19 "has and will remain driven by the scientific and clinical evidence."