Millions of volunteers can be given four weeks off to help ease the strain on healthcare if the coronavirus outbreak becomes a pandemic, the government announced.
Three million experienced people who offer their time free of charge to health or social care services will have their paid employment protected for up to a month to ensure that patients can be adequately cared for, according to Downing Street's proposed plans.
Ministers are considering a range of different options for managing the spread of the virus, which has so far been responsible for the deaths of two elderly people in the UK. Both had underlying health problems.
Cases are expected to continue to increase as healthcare professionals become unable to track where some new patients contracted the virus.
Along with measures for a voluntary force of three million people, ministers are also looking at the increased use of video conferencing facilities in the courts to ensure that trials can continue and the possibility of allowing retired NHS employees to work in the service again. in a place of difficult access. temporary basis.
500 extra call center employees were also recruited to handle the high demand for the NHS 111 service, as people call to check their symptoms instead of attending a medical practice.
The plans will form part of a COVID-19 emergency project, which will be released soon by parliament. This will allow the government to make the necessary changes if and when experts decide that the UK should move from the containment phase to delay.
How the coronavirus spread
In the last stage, those with mild symptoms will be asked to isolate themselves, while anyone with a more severe form of the disease will be treated at the hospital.
There are concerns that the NHS may have problems dealing with the rapid spread of the virus, so self-isolation will be used to try to slow it down.
The emergency bill was designed to be discarded after two years and could also include measures to facilitate the movement of inventories by supermarkets across the country at non-sociable times, in addition to possible changes in competition rules to allow retail stores. coordinate supply and demand information as the outbreak progresses.
Ministers have met with industry experts and heads in recent weeks in all departments, in an attempt to coordinate contingency plans if the virus begins to spread across the country.
Sports agencies will meet with ministers in Whitehall on Monday, as well as supermarket heads and the prime minister will chair an emergency committee to oversee preparations.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We will do everything possible to contain the coronavirus, but as we know, COVID-19 is spreading around the world, so I want to ensure that the government is doing everything in its power to be ready to delay and mitigate that threat.
"Public safety is my top priority. Responding to the coronavirus is a major national effort and I am working with colleagues from across the government to ensure that we have a proportional emergency law, with the right measures to deal with the impacts of a widespread outbreak. COVID-19.
"We plan the worst and work for the best, and the NHS is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to fight this virus. Calls to NHS 111 have increased by more than a third and we have already put 500 extra employees to help with that. increase.
"Everyone has a role to play in managing the spread of COVID-19 – whether it's washing your hands more often for 20 seconds or catching your sneezes."
His comments were made when former Chancellor Philip Hammond said the spread of the disease had the potential to lead the UK into a recession and suggested that it could pose a greater risk to the economy than a Brexit without a deal.
Former MP Tory told the Sunday Times that the government needed to address a "critical and structural weakness in just-in-time supply chains", which he said was exposed by the impact of coronavirus on companies.
Meanwhile, another 45 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the UK on Saturday, in one of the biggest daily increases – bringing the national total to 209.
The vast majority of infections confirmed by COVID-19 occur in England.
They include 38 in London; 30 in the southeast; 25 in the southwest; 26 in the northwest; 18 in the northeast and Yorkshire; 17 in Midlands; 16 in eastern England and 14 where the sites have not yet been established.
In Cornwall, a second case was confirmed – a county resident who traveled to northern Italy, who was severely hit by the global outbreak. A Leicestershire resident is also one of the most recent cases.
There were five more infections in Scotland, bringing the number of cases to 16.
Two new cases have been reported in Lanarkshire, with an increase in one case in Lothian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Grampian.
The Health Department said more than 21,000 people were tested for the virus.
The family of the second person who died in the UK due to the coronavirus paid tribute to a "truly loving and wonderful" husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
In a statement on Saturday, they said that their 83-year-old relative was "very loved" and that he "would endeavor to support and protect his family".
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