New laws to protect public health, increase NHS capacity, and strengthen social care , have been introduced by the Government, as part of efforts to combat COVID-19.
As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive.
The powers enabled by the bill will allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any negative repercussions to their pensions.
Additionally, NHS staff will also be covered by a state-backed insurance scheme to ensure they can care for patients if, for example, they are moving outside their day-to-day duties while making use of their skills and training. Paperwork and administrative requirements will be reduced to help staff discharge patients more quickly when clinically appropriate, to free up hospital space for those who are very ill and enable clinicians to focus on delivering care.
‘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,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘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.’
Other measures in the legislation include allowing police and immigration officers to support and enforce public health measures, including powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health, making arrangements for statutory sick pay for those self-isolating without symptoms from day one, and allowing small businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay payments.
‘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,’ said Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty.
‘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.’