The new Emergency Coronavirus Bill will help the Government to protect life and the nation’s public health, and ensure NHS and social care staff are supported as they deal with significant extra pressure.
The measures in the Bill are temporary, proportionate to the threat, will only be used when strictly necessary and will be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation. By planning for the worst and working for the best, we will get through this.
The emergency law will deal with five elements:
- Containing and slowing the virus.
- Easing legislative and regulatory requirements.
- Enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff across essential services.
- Managing the deceased in a dignified way.
- Supporting and protecting the public to do the right thing and follow public health advice.
We are doing this by:
- Allowing retired NHS staff to return to work. Powers within the Bill will allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any negative repercussions to their pensions. 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.
- Reducing administrative burdens to help doctors discharge patients more quickly. 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.
- Making it easier to volunteers and help the NHS respond to this virus. Volunteers will have extra employment safeguards, allowing them to pause their main jobs for up to 4 weeks while they help care for patients in the health and care system, and will receive a flat rate of compensation to mitigate lost earnings and expenses.
- Ensuring older and more vulnerable people receive the best care available. 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.
- Allowing police and immigration officers to support and enforce public health measures. This will include 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. SSP will be made available from day one for both people off work with Covid-19 symptoms, and also for those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating on PHE advice.
- Allowing small businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay payments from HMRC. SMEs will be able to reclaim the costs of providing SSP. The refund will be limited to two weeks per employees who has claimed SSP as a result of Covid-19.
- Allowing more phone or video hearings for court cases. This will help stop the spread of the virus in courts. All court trials underway should proceed as planned, unless those involved are showing symptoms consistent with Covid-19 or are self-isolating. The minority of Crown Court cases that have been listed for trial but which have not yet commenced, and which are also expected to last for more than three days, will be postponed.
- Working as one United Kingdom to fight the spread of this virus. The Bill allows the four UK governments to switch on these new powers when they are needed and, crucially, to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of the four Chief Medical Officers.