This page will be updated when appropriate. Last updated 31 March.
Q: Why is the Government not mirroring the response of other countries?
The Government has been clear that its approach is clinically led and that it is doing everything it can to combat this outbreak based on the very latest and best scientific and medical advice from the Chief Medical Officer for England, the NHS and Public Health England.
The Government is introducing measures when our scientists judge that they will make the biggest difference to slowing the spread of the disease and reducing the number of victims.
Q: How is the Government working to ensure a good supply of food and other products?
I know that people are concerned about pressures on the food supply chain during this difficult time and it is imperative that people do not stockpile goods. The UK’s major supermarkets have issued a rallying call for everyone to play their part by shopping as they normally would and pull together to support those staying at home.
The Government is working closely with representatives across the chain, together with local authorities and charities, to ensure food stocks keep flowing and people can access the groceries they need. The Government is doing this by:
- Working closely with the retail industry to establish any additional support they may need. The Environment Secretary is speaking regularly with industry, including the British Retail Consortium, to determine what additional support the Government can provide. Under discussion are additional measures to support the continued flow of groceries into our shops and steps to ensure people staying at home can get the food and groceries they need.
- Issuing guidance to help supermarkets keep the supply of food flowing. The Government has issued guidance to local authorities advising them to extend the hours that deliveries can be made to supermarkets and other food retailers, making it easier for shelves to be replenished.
- Announcing a temporary relaxation of the rules governing delivery drivers’ hours. The Transport Secretary has authorised a temporary relaxation of the rules on drivers’ hours so they can continue to help deliver vital goods to shops across the country, while also continuing to be mindful of driver welfare.
- Closely monitoring the resilience of food retailers’ supply chains. UK retailers already have highly-resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people can access the products they need. Food supply into the UK has continued, and the Government is monitoring the situation very closely to ensure this continues.
The Government publishes regular updates on how it is working with the groceries industry to ensure adequate food supply here.
Q: How is the Government working to protect those in social care?
Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are much more likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19. The Government has, therefore, published new guidance which is clear that no one with symptoms should visit care homes or vulnerable people, and that those receiving care should be isolated in their rooms if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
I recognise that this is a challenging time for people living and working in care, but I would like to assure you that the Government is working closely with industry experts to do everything it can to limit the impact COVID-19 has on the most vulnerable. The Government is doing this by:
- Publishing new guidance for adult social care in relation to COVID-19. This guidance covers a variety of scenarios relating to care homes, staff, and providers who care for people in their own homes to ensure older people and those with pre-existing conditions and care needs who receive support are best protected.
- Working with the NHS and care providers to make sure people can stay in their communities wherever possible. Building on existing strong local relationships, the NHS will work with care providers where necessary to make sure people have the best possible care and remain in the community.
- Asking GPs to do what they can to support patients and their families. GPs have been asked to look at the possibilities of offering digital appointments to provide advice and guidance to patients and potentially their families.
- Working with local councils to prioritise people who are at the highest risk. Councils have been told to map out all care and support plans to prioritise people who are at the highest risk and contact all registered providers in their local area to facilitate plans for mutual aid.
Q: How is the Government supporting the NHS?
The Government is working hard to ensure that the NHS and public services have the resources they need to tackle COVID-19. The Government is doing this by:
- Providing any extra resource the NHS needs to tackle the virus. The Government has created a new £5 billion Initial COVID-19 Response Fund so: the NHS can treat COVID-19 patients; councils can support vulnerable people; and funding is available for other public services.
- Bolstering NHS 111 to provide advice to people who need it. Around 500 additional call handlers have already been trained to staff the NHS 111 service, representing an increase of 20%. There is also an online service which will free up call handlers’ time so they are able to prioritise serious cases.
- Working with British manufacturers to support the production of essential medical equipment for the NHS. The Prime Minister has spoken with manufacturers, including Unipart Group, and called on them to support the nationwide effort to fight the virus. The Government has also asked businesses to support with the production of equipment such as ventilators for the NHS.
Q: Will more people be tested for COVID-19?
The Government recognises that more testing is critical to stopping the virus and getting life back to normal as soon as possible. Therefore, the Government is committed to increasing testing capacity to 25,000 hospital patients a day. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have promised industry leaders that they will be given whatever support they need to help the Government increase testing capabilities across the country. The increased capacity is expected to be ready within 4 weeks, with highest-priority cases being tested first.
The Government is also working to bring forward a brand-new type of antibody test which can tell if a person has had the virus and is immune.
Q: What steps is the Government taking to find a cure for COVID-19?
The Government has provided £40 million of new funding to enable further rapid research in COVID-19, with the aim of increasing the capacity and capability of testing and surveillance. The first British patient has been put into a randomised trial for a treatment of COVID-19 and experts are rapidly getting a better understanding of the virus and how to treat it. Trials of a possible vaccine are expected to start within a month.
Q: Is the Government working with the international community to tackle COVID-19?
The UK is playing a crucial role in leading the international response to COVID-19 ensuring we can make a very real difference to countries which are most vulnerable to the disease.
The Government is in close contact with its counterparts around the world, in the G7 and the G20, and the Prime Minister will continue this engagement to ensure a coordinated global response to the outbreak.
In the Budget, the UK showed leadership by providing up to £150 million to the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to help the effort to stop further transmission, including into the UK.
Q: How will the Government protect those who are rough sleeping?
The Government’s top priority is Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from COVID-19.
On 17 March 2020, the Government announced an initial £3.2 million to help rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping, to self-isolate. The funding will be available to all local authorities in England and will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets.
The Government is also helping shelters and hostels with the latest advice on tackling COVID-19. Public Health England has released guidance for providers of hostels and day centres on how to handle suspected cases of COVID-19 to assist staff and visitors in dealing with the impact of the virus.
Q: Are the local, mayoral, and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May going ahead?
On 13 March 2020, the Government announced that it was postponing all elections due to be held in May 2020 for one year to ensure local authorities can focus on delivering vital local services in the months ahead. This decision was made on the advice of the Electoral Commission and is backed by the other political parties.
Q: What does the new Emergency Coronavirus Act do?
On 19 March 2020, the Government introduced emergency legislation to Parliament to strengthen the Government’s COVID-19 response plans. The new Emergency Coronavirus Act will help the Government to protect life and the nation’s public health, and ensure NHS and social care staff are supported as they deal with significant extra pressure. The measures in the Act are temporary, proportionate to the threat, will only be used when strictly necessary and will be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.
The emergency law deals with five elements:
- Containing and slowing the virus
- Easing legislative and regulatory requirements
- Enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff across essential services
- Managing the deceased in a dignified way
- Supporting and protecting the public to do the right thing and follow public health advice
- Allows retired NHS staff to return to work. Powers within the Act allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any negative repercussions to their pensions. NHS staff are also covered by a state-backed insurance scheme to ensure they can care for patients if, for example, they are moving outside their day-to-day duties.
- Reduces administrative burdens to help doctors discharge patients more quickly. Paperwork and administrative requirements have been reduced to help doctors discharge patients more quickly - when clinically appropriate - to free up hospital space for those who are very ill.
- Makes it easier for volunteers to help the NHS respond to this virus. Volunteers have extra employment safeguards allowing them to pause their main jobs for up to 4 weeks while they help care for patients in the health and care system. Volunteers can also receive a flat rate of compensation to mitigate lost earnings and expenses.
- Ensures older and more vulnerable people receive the best care available. Changes to councils’ duties under the Care Act enable them to prioritise people with the greatest care needs and make the best use of the adult social care workforce.
- Allows police and immigration officers to support and enforce public health measures. This includes powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health.
- Makes arrangements for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for those self-isolating without symptoms from day one. More information about this can be found here.
- Allows small businesses to reclaim SSP payments from HMRC. SMEs are able to reclaim the costs of providing SSP. More information about this can be found here.
- Allows more phone or video hearings for court cases. This helps stop the spread of the virus in courts. All court trials underway will proceed as planned, unless those involved are showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or are self-isolating. The minority of Crown Court cases that have been listed for trial but which have not yet commenced, and which are also expected to last for more than three days, will be postponed.
- Also us to work as one United Kingdom to fight the spread of this virus. The Act allows the four UK Governments to switch on these new powers when they are needed and, crucially, to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of the four Chief Medical Officers.
Q: What should I do if I know someone who is stuck in Bangladesh?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a specific FAQs section on their website about this.