LONDON — The U.K. government on Tuesday set out a suite of new powers it will seek to tackle coronavirus.
Police and immigration officers would be given new powers to detain people and put them in isolation facilities “if necessary to protect public health,” under the proposed new law due to be introduced in parliament on Thursday.
The U.K. Border Force would be allowed to temporarily suspend operations at airports and other transport hubs “if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security.”
The emergency bill also proposes a relaxation of the rules around registering deaths; measures to allow recently retired National Health Service staff and social workers to return to work without it hitting their pensions; and a reduction in paperwork so patients can be discharged from hospital quicker.
It would also relax the rules on the number of doctors needed to detain and treat patients suffering from a mental health disorder if there are staff shortages.
The government held cross-party talks to draw up the legislation, and with the Conservative party’s 80-strong majority the plans are almost certain to quickly pass through the House of Commons.
The bill would put into law previously announced measures including allowing access to statutory sick pay for those self-isolating, and allowing small businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay payments from the government.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the measures would “only be used when it is absolutely necessary,” but would “give the government the powers it needs to protect lives.”
It would allow the government to switch on the new powers when they are needed, and “switch them off again once they are no longer necessary,” the Department for Health statement said.