By Caribbean News Global
LONDON, England – UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed, at Downing Street on Monday morning, that coronavirus (COVID-19) is unfortunately likely to spread in the UK, although, for the time being, people should go about “business as usual”.
A new Bill will be published in the coming weeks to ensure the government has all the necessary powers to prepare for and tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
New measures already set out as part of the battle plan include:
- Every government department has a designated Ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus, for instance on schools or businesses;
- A war room set up in the Cabinet office, bringing together communications experts and scientists from across government and the NHS to roll out the public information campaign Coronavirus being a standing item on the weekly Cabinet agenda, with the prime minister continuing to oversee the government approach;
- The option, should the virus spread, to encourage more home working and discourage unnecessary travel as part of a ‘social distancing’ strategy that could delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year, potentially helping combat the virus in warmer weather conditions;
- Looking at emergency registration of health professionals who have retired, the introduction of emergency indemnity coverage for health care workers to provide care or diagnostic services and relaxation of rules around staff to pupil ratios in education and childcare settings.
Prime minister Johnson said: “It is highly likely coronavirus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, which is why we’re making every possible preparation. We have agreed on a plan, which I will set out in detail, so if the virus should spread, we are ready to take necessary steps to contain it and protect the most vulnerable.
“But we can all continue to do our bit to fight this virus – by washing our hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.”
Travel to the Schengen area is likely to become difficult for those applying for a visa, according to the EU’s new Coronavirus (COVID-19) response team.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced in a press conference on Monday morning that the EU has now established the Corona response team based on three pillars: medical, mobility and economy.
According to EU’s Schengen travel advice, third-country nationals may be refused entry, as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) announced on Monday that the risk to public health in the European Union has increased from moderate to high. ‘Third countries’ refer to those outside of the EEA (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), UK, San Marino, Monaco, and Switzerland.
However, the EU Commission says proportionality of border control is expected, while health checks will be reinforced at the external borders of the Schengen area.
“Under the Schengen Border Code, all decisions to refuse or accept entry to the territory of a Member State must be subject to an individual assessment undertaken by the competent authorities. It is the responsibility of the Member States to refuse entry on public health grounds to individual third-country nationals,” the European Corona response team website states.
Applicants for a short-stay Schengen visa, the EU Commission has announced that they may be unsuccessful should they be considered a threat to public health. A situation update worldwide is available here.
“Member States can refuse an application for a short-stay visa as well as entry to the Schengen area to visa holders on grounds of threat to public health.” This is because “not posing a threat to public health is one of the conditions for obtaining a short-stay visa (Visa Code) and an entry condition under the Schengen Borders Code.”
The EU Commission says that airlines may invoke the “force majeure” clause to refuse compensation or delays: “Airlines can cancel flights two weeks before the scheduled departure and no compensation is due.” This is not the case for rail, whereas for those travelling on cruise ships, “provisions on delay and compensation do not apply”. The EU Commission says that travellers can expect flight suspensions within the EU, though the same non-discriminatory proportionality and transparency principles apply.
Source of updated information on COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK can be found here.