Coronavirus: Boris Johnson 'to rush in emergency laws' bypassing health and safety measures to limit virus impact

Downing Street said to be weighing limiting spread of virus against keeping economy alive

Boris Johnson on coronavirus

Emergency laws allowing health and safety measures to be bypassed in order to keep the country running should the coronavirus outbreak worsen will be rushed in next week amid No10 fears of an economic meltdown, reports suggest.

Councils, schools and the public sector will be given powers to suspend laws restricting classroom sizes and limiting the legal number of working hours in order to keep classes and supply chains running, according to The Times.

Rumours of the plans – which could see military doctors drafted in to help NHS hospitals cope – emerged hours after the Department of Health (DoH) revealed the virus had been transmitted within the UK for the first time.

Downing Street is weighing up whether to attempt to minimise the disruption to the economy, or prioritise saving lives by imposing intrusive restrictions, The Times reported.

London’s FTSE 100 share index suffered its worst one-week fall since last decade’s financial crash as a result of the virus, with £210bn erased from the value of the country’s top companies.

The government’s urgent contingency plans came as Boris Johnson was urged by Labour rivals and former senior Tories to “get a grip” of the coronavirus situation.

Insisting the deadly outbreak was his “top priority” the prime minister on Friday announced he would chair an emergency Cobra meeting — but not for three days time.

Meanwhile, the first UK national died from the virus in Japan after becoming infected on the Diamond Princess cruise liner, which has seen more than 700 of its passengers contract the deadly virus.

The man who died was one of at least four British cruise ship passengers who were taken to hospital in Japan after testing positive for the virus, which has now killed six of the people who contracted it onboard the ship.

Sally Abel was cleared of the virus on Thursday, while her husband David appeared optimistic, saying in a video broadcast: “Even if I’m still positive it’s not the end of the world.”

On British soil, the DoH warned it “is highly likely that we will soon see some instances of community transmission”, as it emerged the UK’s 20th patient may have been infected by someone who had not recently travelled overseas.

Health authorities scrambled to discover the original source of the virus, lamenting it remained “unclear” as experts warned doing so was “crucial” in order to prevent a more extensive spread.

“This case — a person testing positive for novel coronavirus with no known link to an affected area or known case — marks a new chapter for the UK and it will be crucial to understand where the infection came from to try to prevent more extensive spread,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in