Coronavirus emergency laws published with plan to put retired NHS staff to work

The Government has published proposals for the emergency laws it believes it needs to steer Britain through the coronavirus outbreak.

The sweeping powers – which will be brought to the House of Commons tomorrow – will give the government authority to interfere in areas of British life in a way that would have been unthinkable before the crisis.

Ministers have not declared a "state of emergency" under the Civil Contingencies Act –  meaning Parliament must pass these proposals.

The Bill includes measures which will offer additional employment protections and compensation for those volunteering in health and social care.

It also makes it easier for potentially highly skilled health and care staff who have retired to return to the frontline of the NHS.

  • Coronavirus pandemic – Emergency laws to try to halt outbreak unveiled

Under the new laws, councils will be allowed to strip back services offered both to people in care homes and in their own homes without legal challenge – so long as they do not cause 'serious neglect or harm'.

Doctors will be permitted to detail the cause of death on medical certificates without seeing a deceased person's body – with other senior health professionals allowed to sign death certificates.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen for coronavirus symptoms?

The NHS has stopped advising coronavirus patients to take ibuprofen amid concerns the anti-inflammatory painkiller could only make things worse.

A statement read: "There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (COVID-19) worse.

"But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.

"If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first."

Among the proposed powers are a number of powers that will give police powers to detain people with coronavirus who try to ignore movement restrictions on the infected.

Police and border officials will be given powers to detain people for a "limited period" if it is feared they could spread the deadly virus.

Courts will be able to introduce more video conferenceing and the Border Force will have the power to close ports and airports.

The government say that the measures in the Coronavirus Bill are temporary, and "proportionate to the threat we face" and will only be used when strictly necessary.

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Among the provisions are proposals designed to "manage the deceased in a dignified way should we experience excess deaths".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.

 “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."

When should you call NHS 111?

Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms, such as a cough or fever, should self-isolate for 14 days.

You should stay at home if you or or anyone in your household has a high temperature or a new and continuous cough – even if it's mild.

  • Everyone in your household must stay at home for 14 days and keep away from others
  • DO NOT go to your GP or hospital.
  • Go to NHS.UK to check your symptoms and follow the specialist medical advice.
  • Only call 111 if you can't get online, you feel like you can't cope at home, or your symptoms do not get better after the seven days.
  • If you are pregnant you should call 111 if you have any concerns about yourself or unborn baby during self-isolation.
  • Pregnant women are advised to contact their midwife, out-of-hours helplines or a maternity team who will provide information on whether you need to go to hospital.

NHS staff will 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 doctors 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.

Volunteers will have extra employment safeguards, allowing them to pause their main jobs for up to four weeks while they help

Changes to Councils’ duties under the Care Act will enable them to prioritise people with the greatest care needs and make the best use of the adult social care workforce

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “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.

 “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.”

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