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Police and health officials to get powers to detain under UK coronavirus bill

Bill allows police and officials to order anyone believed to be infected to undergo testing

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Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government.

Coronavirus victims who refuse to self-isolate could be detained, it has been reported. The government is set to introduce emergency legislation next week which would see a ban on large gatherings. Alongside that, police could be handed powers to detain suspected virus victims ‘for a limited period’ if necessary to stop them spreading the infection. There could also be new powers to close ports if immigration and border staff fall sick with the disease. Councils are also likely to be able to lower standards in care homes to deal with staff shortages. And further measures are expected to be announced to speed up burials and cremations to cope with the ‘worst case scenario.’ Ministers believe the virus will infect the majority of the country and the laws will stay in place for two years, according to the Times.

The number of infections in the UK is now nearing 800 and 11 people have died. While gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned, schools are set to remain open. Late on Friday a Whitehall source said: ‘Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week. ‘We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home. ‘There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible. ‘We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence. ‘We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations. ‘We will publish this legislation next week.’

Liverpool Street station in central London

Liverpool Street station in London. Health officers will have the power to force potentially infected people to isolate, restrict their travel and contact with others. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government.

The guidance detailed in the coronavirus bill allows public health officers to order someone believed to be infected to undergo screening and testing within 14 days. They will be required to provide biological samples and disclose their travel history.

Alongside the police, they will also have the power to force potentially infected people to isolate, restrict their travel and activities and contact with other people.

Immigration officers and police will also be handed powers to send people for screening and testing and hold them for a period of time before a public health officer can be consulted.

These measures will be enforced and fines exacted only if there is a risk of a serious and imminent threat to public health.

This would include anyone who absconds while being moved to be tested, providing false information or obstructing someone trying to implement the restrictions.