Six million may miss work
Employers encouraged to allow staff to work from home where possible. The battle plan warns that staff sickness will have a major impact on business and public services.
At the peak of an epidemic as many as one in five could be off sick at any one time – equal to more than six million people.
The plan warns: ‘Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as their own personal illness or caring responsibilities.’
A family were been evacuated from a home in Hull by medics wearing hazmat suits, in the latest coronavirus scare
A security guard with a mask on checks a driver at a coronavirus drive-thru testing centre at Parsons Green Health Centre in Fulham
Coronavirus fears have gripped Britain, as a pedestrian is pictured wearing a protective facemask while taking a bus in Westminster, London
Clampdown on mass gatherings
If the virus takes off then some mass gatherings could be called off to slow the spread.
But officials pointed out yesterday that the spread of the virus could be greater if fans banned from a football match choose to watch it in the pub.
But older people could be advised to stay away, potentially putting events like the VE Day commemorations in jeopardy from May 8-10.
Older people could be advised to stay away from mass gatherings, potentially putting events like the VE Day commemorations in jeopardy from May 8-10. Pictured: Chelsea pensioners at the Remembrance Sunday parade last year
Social contact cut to slow spread
Strategies to slow the spread of the virus include so-called ‘population distancing’.
Officials yesterday said this could include asking people to ‘avoid contact outside work and school’.
Sources acknowledge there is little they can do to prevent people meeting friends and visiting pubs, restaurants and cinemas, but say that cutting social contact by 75 per cent could have a major impact on the spread of the disease.
Strategies to slow the spread of the virus include so-called ‘population distancing’ (stock image)
Vetting for care home visitors
A dedicated plan for care homes will be published later this month. But, with elderly people significantly more vulnerable to the virus, sources said efforts would be made to limit contact with potential carriers.
Visits could be limited and family members could be asked to show they are virus-free before visiting.
At the height of the epidemic care homes could be temporarily closed to visitors, although ministers are anxious that residents do not feel cut off from their loved ones.
Police to halt paperwork
The report suggests that police could be told to shelve all but the most serious casework in order to focus on ‘critical functions’.
The document states that if the police suffer a ‘significant loss of officers’ to sickness they would be expected to ‘concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order.’
The report suggests that police could be told to shelve all but the most serious casework (stock image)
Army guards at high-risk sites
The Army could be put on standby to substitute for the police on guarding duties at high-profile sites, such as nuclear power stations and Parliament. This would free up police officers for frontline roles. The Prime Minister said there were ‘long-established plans’ for the Army to ‘backfill’ in emergencies. But Government sources played down suggestions that the military would play a wider role.
There are no plans to close ports and airports. But the Government will change the law to give border staff the power to require people arriving in the UK showing symptoms of the coronavirus to take a test. Pictured: A woman wearing a face mask packs her suitcase in the departures area of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport
Courts deploy video-links
Ministers are looking at changing the law to allow suspects being held on remand to give evidence via video link from their prison. The system is already used for some serious terrorist offences and could be extended to other cases to reduce the need to transfer people to and from court every day.
Schools expected to stay open
The battle plan leaves open the possibility of ordering school closures for up to three months in order to slow the spread of the virus. But ministers are acutely aware of the potential impact on children’s education, the exam season and parents’ ability to work if schools are shut so it will only happen as a last resort. Instead, ministers will change the law to permit larger class sizes and to allow children to temporarily attend a different school if theirs is closed. Healthy teachers could also be redeployed to other schools that are suffering shortages.
The battle plan leaves open the possibility of ordering school closures for up to three months in order to slow the spread of the virus (stock image)
Hospital ops to be delayed
The NHS is likely to face massive strain if the virus takes off. The battle plan says that routine services, including elective operations such as hip and knee operations, could be ‘reduced temporarily’ to ease the burden. Doctors will liaise with council social services teams to enable ‘early’ discharge from hospital to free up beds. Boris Johnson yesterday urged people to be ‘self-restraining where possible’ when considering accessing NHS services.
The battle plan says that routine services, including elective operations such as hip and knee operations, could be ‘reduced temporarily’ to ease the burden (stock images)
Former medics called up
Ministers will change the law this month to allow doctors and nurses who have left the NHS or retired to return temporarily to plug gaps left by sickness among healthcare workers. The NHS is also looking to fast-track recruitment of an army of volunteers to help maintain services such as feeding patients and delivering medicines.
A woman wears a protective face mask while sitting on a London Underground train today
Border staff on watch for virus
There are no plans to close ports and airports. But the Government will change the law to give border staff the power to require people arriving in the UK showing symptoms of the coronavirus to take a test. Powers have already been taken to require people deemed at risk of the virus to be isolated from the rest of the community.
The Government will change the law to give border staff the power to require people arriving in the UK showing symptoms of the coronavirus to take a test (stock image)
Support for firms and sick workers
The battle plan says the Government is looking at financial support for businesses facing ‘short-term cash flow problems’. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil detailed measures in next week’s budget. Ministers are also looking at the possibility of providing support to those workers who do not qualify for sick pay to ensure they take time off work if they catch the virus.
Town halls put on death watch
The report states that there ‘could well be an increase in deaths’ and says talks with councils are underway to ensure that funeral services are not overwhelmed. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said scientists were ‘reasonably confident’ that only one in a hundred people who contract the virus will die. In a worst case scenario this could translate into about 500,000 extra deaths over a period of months, although officials are hopeful the final number will be ‘much lower’. The elderly are more susceptible, with those aged over 80 thought to be particularly at risk.