Refusing to be tested or quarantined for coronavirus could soon result in a £1,000 fine - or even jail time
People who refuse to be tested for the coronavirus or quarantined could face a fine or even jail time, it has been announced.
Emergency powers are to be confirmed next week enabling police officers in England and Wales to use “reasonable force” in detaining those who pose an infection risk to others.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new measures.
What do the emergency powers allow?
According to information published on the government’s website, the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 will allow members of the public to be held in a secure hospital or other location for up to 14 days.
Those who leave before their assigned isolation period has been completed could then be arrested and taken into custody.
Refusal to comply with quarantine rules will be registered as a criminal offence carrying a fine of up to £1,000. Failure to pay the fine could then result in a jail sentence.
Similarly, the new regulations mean that those who are suspected of carrying the virus will be legally obliged to consent to having their throat and nose swabbed, and to giving blood so that they can be tested.
They will also be compelled to tell the authorities where they have travelled and who they have been in contact with recently.
“We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health, yes, and that’s important” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. However, he also said that “I doubt that actually we will need to use it much because people have been very responsible.”
What other measures might be implemented?
Scotland has already called for gatherings of 500 people or more to be cancelled for up to four months and the rest of the UK seems likely to emulate this.
Bars, restaurants and shops may also be closed in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, although supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open. Lockdowns of parts of cities or full cities have also not been ruled out.
As one of the most at-risk groups, over-70s will be asked to self-isolate for up to four months.
To deal with the increased pressure on the health services, doctors will be able to issue death certificates without seeing the body of the deceased, and other senior healthcare professionals will also be given the power to issue them.
A draft of the new legislation also says that "In a reasonable worst-case scenario the death management industry will be rapidly overwhelmed. There is a significant gap in body storage requirements to ensure we are prepared."
As such, measures to speed up cremations and burials may also be put in place.
When will the new regulations come into effect?
The proposed regulations are to be presented by the Prime Minister on Monday 16 March, with the hope of passing them into law within 14 days.
The laws will then remain in place for the next two years.