Police could arrest people refusing coronavirus quarantine in new emergency law

Police could arrest sick people refusing to stay in quarantine as the government draws up emergency coronavirus laws.

The government will have the power to force people into quarantine, close shops, pubs and restaurants if necessary to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said emergency powers would be passed into law this week.

Asked if the laws could involve police or army personnel on the streets, closing borders or arresting people who refuse to stay in quarantine, he confirmed it could.

"We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health," he said.

"I doubt we will need to use it very much because people are being very responsible and people need to be responsible."

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And he said he would not rule out following other countries and closing, restaurants, bars and other shops to prevent the spread.

Asked if ministers were planning on shutting up shops other than pharmacies and supermarkets, Mr Hancock told the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC: "We haven't ruled that out, we will do what is necessary.'"

The Government is in talks with private hospitals about the possibility of taking over beds, in a further sign of the pressures that will face the health service at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Health Secretary said the NHS would be stopping other activities including elective or non-urgent surgeries.

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He also discussed the potential of creating emergency hospitals and said the Government will turn unused operating theatres into extra wards for coronavirus patients.

Mr Hancock said: "Some people are saying 'should you build a hospital?' We've seen that many hotels are empty so we've got ready-built facilities for looking after people, but the critical thing is that they need oxygen supplies and the ventilation equipment.

"What matters is not just the space, it's making sure the equipment and the trained staff are there as well. There is a massive effort going on to make sure that capacity is as big as possible."

And Mr Hancock would not rule out forcing bars, shops and restaurants to close.

Mr Hancock said: "Our generation has never been tested like this.

"Our grandparents were, during the Second World War, when our cities were bombed during the Blitz.

"Despite the pounding every night, the rationing, the loss of life, they pulled together in one gigantic national effort.

"Today our generation is facing its own test, fighting a very real and new disease."

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