New government coronavirus plans to be announced – what they could be in full
The UK government is gearing up for a 'wartime-style' mobilisation as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold.
A total of 35 people have now died of the virus in the UK, with the total number of confirmed cases reaching 1,391 yesterday.
Drastic measures which will have a profound impact on everyday life are expected to be brought in over the coming weeks.
New government plans could see schools and pubs close, the army called in to stock supermarket shelves and all over-70s may have to self-isolate for months.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce some of these measures, though definitely not all of them, at a press conference late on Monday afternoon.
His announcement, flanked by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, will follow a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee.
Other announcements will only come later, for instance in a few
As we prepare for the announcement, here is a list of the main proposals that are on the table.
Follow our LIVE blog for updates on the coronavirus outbreak
Self-isolation for over-70s
Ministers have confirmed people in Britain aged over 70 will "likely" be told to to stay in strict isolation for their own safety, because they are most vulnerable to dying from COVID-19.
Leaked plans suggested this would start in the next few weeks and last four months.
The government has confirmed the plans exist, but not yet confirmed when isolation would start or how long it would last.
The government is concerned at the effect on older people and has said they wouldn't be cooped up completely.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would not be "compulsory". He told the BBC: "It is the case that people will be able to go out and walk the dog. It's about being sensible, not mixing in crowds."
This is different to the advice given to people who self-isolate because they show symptoms. Those people are not allowed to go outside for a walk.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman declined to confirm details, saying: “I think the sensible thing to do would be to wait for the government to set out further details of precisely what these policies involve.”
Gatherings of 500 or more people face being banned within days.
Boris Johnson stopped short of taking this step previously, but said it would be likely in the near future. And Scotland's ban has already come into force.
Meanwhile, leaked government plans suggested that pubs will temporarily close after next week – a move already taken in Ireland.
Bars and restaurants also face shutting their doors some time after next weekend, according to reports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the NHS to buy up thousands of private hospital beds as the coronavirus death toll doubled today.
Eight thousand private hospital beds will be used to relieve pressure on the NHS as it battles the flu-like virus.
The plan to pay the private sector £300 a day for a bed followed demands by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth and the GMB union.
Other measures being planned include hotels and other buildings being used as temporary hospitals, and privately-run hospitals being converted into emergency medical care centres.
Meanwhile Downing Street has signalled NHS workers will be tested for COVID-19 – after a shocking leaked document claimed they wouldn’t be due to lack of capacity.
“Key workers such as NHS staff are an important focus,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. He said more detail would be set out shortly but added: “We are acutely aware of the issue and key workers are a focus of our testing effort.”
No10 defended Britain’s testing regime despite other countries like South Korea testing far more people.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We have carried out more tests than most countries in the world and we continue to increase our testing capacity.”
A 'wartime-like' bid for private firms to make ventilators
The government is commissioning private companies to make respirators that can keep acutely ill victims alive.
The PM has told health equipment firms to move heaven and earth to churn out as many life-saving ventilators as they can. Boris Johnson was holding a conference call with firms on Monday night.
The government has guaranteed it will buy them all, no matter how many are made. The UK currently only has about 5,000.
Asked why the government didn’t order more ventilators earlier, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “I think we are facing what is an unprecedented situation and that’s going to require an unprecedented response.
“The response [from industry on making ventilators] has been a positive one.”
Downing Street has refused to rule out the possibility of a mass schools closure before the Easter holidays.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “It’s not something we have ever ruled out.
“But equally the scientific and medical advice is that is not a step we should be taking at this moment in time.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was meeting the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), other school leaders and Ofsted on Monday. No10 said it would be “to discuss the education sector’s issues and concerns in relation to the outbreak.”
One plan has suggested schools would close for a few weeks but children of key workers will be allowed to continue attending, with skeleton staff providing childcare.
While mass closures haven't yet been announced, individual schools can be told to close by Public Health England.
And any individual child with a cough or fever should be kept home self-isolated for seven days. Fresh guidance on Monday says: "Staff, young people or children become unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature they should be sent home."
Powers to arrest people who breach rules
Emergency laws are set to come before the House of Commons from Tuesday to deal with the outbreak.
According to The Times, they will include powers to detain people who are infected and ignore public health advice.
The laws are also expected to lower standards introduced in the wake of the Harold Shipman scandal in order to allow more health workers to be rushed into the NHS.
Powers to ban mass gatherings and compensate organisations could also be included.
As the US banned flights from the UK, planes en route to Spain had to turn around mid-air on Saturday.
The airline Jet2 has taken the decision to cancel all flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands with immediate effect after the country entered lockdown.
TUI has also released a statement telling all customers that holidays booked to Spain between Sunday and Monday have been cancelled.
The Foreign Office has advised against "all but essential travel" to more than 30 countries including the US, Kenya and South Africa.
For a full list of up to date travel advice click here.
Bringing in the army
Thousands of British troops are on standby to help keep the UK functioning if coronavirus hits “peak virus” next month.
This could be enforced within 20 days to save lives and prevent the NHS 'falling over'.
Planners from the Royal Logistics Corps have already been brought in to help local councils.
Under the codename Operation Rescript, Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch has drawn up contingency plans to keep supermarkets shelves full and petrol stations topped up with fuel.
Hundreds of Army drivers could be drafted in to keep the nation supplied with food and fuel.
Other service personnel will be brought in to work with all three emergency services if sickness depletes their numbers.
Royal Military Police could help support local constabularies, while troops may be used to drive ambulances and fire engines.
Environment Secretary George Eustice is chairing a meeting of food suppliers and supermarkets at Monday lunchtime to ensure “continuity of supply”.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has once again urged the British public not to panic buy at supermarkets.
Asked if people were being “selfish”, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and the medical and scientific advisors have said there isn’t the need for people to buy more than they would usually use.”
Asked if the government would introduce rationing, the spokesman said: “That’s not part of the legislation we’re bringing forward, no.”
Working from home
Downing Street said there was not yet any official guidance to work from home, but said it's "entirely understandable" that some firms are already doing it.
Boris Johnson's spokesman said: “These are individual businesses have been working with their staff on contingency planning and I think that is entirely understandable.”
The government is setting up a new Economic and Business Response Committee, led by the Chancellor and Business Secretary, to deal with the economic fallout from the outbreak.
The Prime Minister hosted a meeting with Chancellor and the new governor of the Bank of England on Monday morning.
He was then expected to take part in a G7 leaders’ phone call to “discuss the international response to the outbreak.”
Modelling of the government's plans
The government’s advisors intend to publish modelling of the coronavirus epidemic in the “very near future”, Downing Street has said.
… But Cabinet meetings are still on
In-person Cabinet meetings have not been cancelled despite at least one (junior) minister having had COVID-19.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “Cabinet continuing in the normal way.
“It’s important we co-ordinate the effort in dealing with this virus.”
Source: Read Full Article