Mail Online reports today that police in the UK have been “given the power to seize people trying to escape coronavirus quarantine and force them back into isolation in handcuffs”.
The UK government announced today: “A new law was hurriedly brought into force after a patient staying at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral reportedly tried to leave before completing the 14-day stay after his return from China.
“Government sources said those who returned to the UK on the evacuation flights on January 31 were given a ‘very clear choice’ and had to sign contracts saying they would remain in isolation for a fortnight.
“But a source involved with the Arrowe Park incident said: ‘We found we didn’t have the necessary enforcement powers to make sure they didn’t leave’.
“Police will now be able to force people to remain in the units and, if they leave, to arrest them for committing an offence and take them back to the quarantine facility, Mail Online understands.
“The new rule comes as England today announced its fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth cases of the virus in Brighton – all of the three men and a woman are linked to the fourth patient, who has now been dubbed a ‘super-spreader’.
“The fourth patient was a businessman who returned to the UK from a conference in Singapore via a ski chalet in France, where other Britons were subsequently taken ill with the virus,” the report said.
“The Department of Health today declared the outbreak a ‘serious and imminent’ threat to the British public as it announced new powers to fight the spread.”
Meanwhile, in other developments related to the outbreak today, the report added:
- World Health Organization chief warns coronavirus outbreak could ‘only be the tip of the iceberg’ amid fears thousands of cases are going missing
- Just under a fifth of known cases of the new coronavirus in China may be resulting in death, a new report estimates
- The coronavirus can survive on door handles and bus or train poles for up to nine days – more than four times longer than flu, according to research
- London’s FTSE 100 weakened after Mr Hancock declared the coronavirus outbreak a serious and imminent threat to public health
- Nearly 100 people died from coronavirus in China yesterday on the deadliest day of the six-week outbreak so far
- Amazon and Sony are the latest companies to pull out of this month’s Mobile World Congress, due to be held in Barcelona, because of the coronavirus outbreak
- Sixty-six more passengers on a cruise ship in Japan have been diagnosed the killer infection, taking the ship’s toll to around 136
According to the report: “The regulation will be added as a secondary part to the 1984 Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, which controls the powers the government has over the public to stop illnesses spreading.
“It will, unless rejected by Parliament, fix in the law the power to capture and detain people who are suspected of having the coronavirus. It is understood that the police will have the power to force people in extreme situations.
“Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside and Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes are now designated as ‘isolation’ facilities – it is primarily the people staying in these facilities who will be affected by the new regulation.
“There are currently 93 UK citizens at Arrowe Park and 105 in Milton Keynes. Another man, who felt ill on a China evacuation flight, is being kept in isolation at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
“Nobody who was evacuated from Wuhan is known to have brought the virus back with them – all cases in the UK so far have been among others who travelled to Asia or came into contact with people who did.
“The first 83 Britons evacuated from Wuhan should have completed 14 days in quarantine on Thursday after they landed at RAF Brize Norton on Friday, January 31.
“A spokesman for the Department of Health said this morning: ‘Our infection control procedures are world leading and the NHS is well prepared to deal with novel coronavirus,” the report said.
“We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public.
“This measure will rightly make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the country.
“It comes after a British man who caught coronavirus in Singapore appears to be linked to at least seven other confirmed cases in England, France and Spain.
“Health officials are not confirming a link or giving detail on his relationship to the other people diagnosed with the illness, but he is reported to be a middle-aged British man and is understood to have been the first UK national to contract the disease.
Meanwhile, a Department of Health statement said this morning: “The Secretary of State has made regulations to ensure that the public are protected as far as possible from the transmission of the virus.
“The Secretary of State declares that the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health, and the measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus.
“Last week Mr Hancock warned that Britain will be battling for ‘months to come’ with the number of cases doubling every five days.”
He told the media: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We’ve also launched a public information campaign setting out how every member of the public, including members of this House, can help by taking simple steps to minimise the risk to themselves and their families.
“Washing hands, using tissues when you sneeze, just as you would with flu,” he added.
“The announcement comes as a British ‘super spreader’ is feared to have infected at least seven others with the coronavirus, prompting the emergency testing of hundreds of people on his flights, ski break and even his local pub.”