• Sunday, May 31, 2020
  • Last Update : 03:48 pm

Schools close as UK govt announces emergency virus plans

  • Published at 10:37 pm March 18th, 2020
Britain-school
General view of a deserted playground in Borehamwood as the spread of the coronavirus continues, in Britain on March 18, 2020 Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under mounting pressure to close schools, as other European governments have done, particularly in light of increasing staff shortages

Schools in Scotland and Wales will shut on Friday, officials said, with England expected to follow suit as Britain unveiled planned emergency powers to deal with the spiralling coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under mounting pressure to close schools, as other European governments have done, particularly in light of increasing staff shortages.

 But even as he told parliament a decision would be taken "imminently", the devolved governments in Cardiff and Edinburgh stole a march by announcing their own closures by Friday at the latest.

"At this stage I cannot promise that they will reopen before the summer holidays," which normally begin in July, said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The announcements came as the effects of the pandemic, which has seen 2,626 confirmed cases in Britain and 71 deaths, begin to bite.

Parliamentary hotspot

Lawmakers were told to stay away from their weekly parliamentary question time with Johnson and those who did attend sat at a distance from one another to try to reduce their risk of infection.

Some 25 MPs, including a cabinet minister, are already thought to have isolated themselves. A leading disease expert advising the government warned the area around parliament was a hotspot.

"There's a lot of Covid-19 in Westminster," epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson tweeted, as he announced that he had also developed symptoms.

Emergency powers

Johnson on Tuesday said the government was on a war footing, as he escalated measures to limit the human and economic cost of the outbreak.

The government has now recommended household isolation, home-working, an end to mass gatherings including sporting events, unnecessary social contact and overseas travel.

Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said 55,000 Britons could have the virus at a "reasonable" estimate.

A huge package of support for businesses to help them survive the tough new social measures has been announced, including government-backed loans of at least £330 billion ($395 billion, 360 billion euros).

Sweeping emergency powers are now to be introduced in parliament for up to two years, including proposals allowing police to detain potentially infected people to be tested.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The Emergency Coronavirus Bill... will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximise their effectiveness."

The measures "give the government the powers it needs to protect lives", he added.

The bill includes plans to boost the health workforce with volunteers, shutting airports and other transport hubs if security cannot be guaranteed, and using more video hearings in courts.

The legislation is expected to pass unopposed, given the cross-party involvement in drawing it up, and become law before parliament goes into recess on March 31.

But some opposition lawmakers voiced concern at the sweeping nature and duration of the proposals, and the effect on civil liberties. Some argued they should be regularly renewed by parliament.

50
50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail