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Covid-19: A fifth of UK workers may be absent from work during peak weeks

British police will concentrate on responding to serious crimes under a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’.


BRITISH POLICE WILL “concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order” if significant numbers of officers cannot work due to Covid-19 containment. 

The UK government’s plan to deal with the global outbreak was published today.

The document outlined that it is possible that up to one fifth of employees across the country may be absent from work during peak weeks.

The plan was produced in association with a number of authorities, including Northern Ireland’s Department of Health. 

The plan contains four different phases in dealing with the novel coronavirus, “Contain, Delay, Research and Mitigate”. 

Under the mitigate phase, the document outlines that emergency services, including the police and fire and rescue services, will enact continuity plans to maintain services. 

“For example, with a significant loss of officers and staff, the police would concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order,” the document states.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was today asked about this step and he confirmed that the army would help police in such a scenario. 

“There are long-established plans by which the police will, obviously they will keep the public safe, but they will prioritise those things that they have to do, and the army is of course always ready to backfill as and when. But that is under the reasonable worst case scenario,” he said. 

Johnson added that the UK remains “extremely well prepared” to deal with the virus and he reiterated that correct hand-washing is the “single most important thing” people can do to stop its spread.

Aside from taking specific steps, such as washing hands vigorously, Johnson said the “vast majority of the people in this country should be going about our business as usual”.

coronavirus UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (left). Source: PA Images

The UK has now seen 39 people test positive for Covid-19.  Over the weekend, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he has not ruled out shutting down cities if the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

Hancock said that despite the “huge economic and social downside” of following China’s lead and isolating UK cities, it is an option that remains on the table.

Asked about this morning, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said there are “multiple options being looked”.

“In general though, and I don’t want to take any clear thing off the table because it’s important everyone thinks this through, locking down a city is most useful when it is starting in one place with a high transmission in that place and nowhere else,” he said. 

The UK government’s coronavirus  plan also said that the UK has stockpiles of medicines for the NHS as well as protective clothing and equipment for medical staff.

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The government’s response is currently in the containment phase, along with research being carried out and planning for the delay and mitigation work.

Officials hope to delay the peak of the virus until the spring and summer months when health services are less busy.

During the mitigation phase, when the virus is much more widespread, “pressures on services and wider society may become significant and clearly noticeable”, the document states.  

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Rónán Duffy

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