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Government could give special powers to police to arrest those with coronavirus symptoms

THE government could give police special powers to arrest people with coronavirus symptoms who do not self-isolate, health minister Matt Hancock claimed today.

Mr Hancock said “we will stop at nothing” in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak, including “powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health.”

The emergency powers will be set out tomorrow before the legislation is outlined in a Bill due to be published on Thursday, he said.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth asked for reassurance from the government about some of the “very stringent powers” ministers hope to introduce.

The measure follows a warning from the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) that inmates could be released early to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus behind bars.

POA general secretary Steve Gillan said the coronavirus situation in Britain’s “grossly overcrowded” jails is “unprecedented.” 

In Iran tens of thousands of prisoners have been released to prevent the virus spreading among inmates. 

When asked on Sky News if releasing some prisoners was in the contingency plan, Mr Gillan said: “Not as yet, but previous governments have done what was called an executive release of prisoners, that may come in the future to free up spaces in prisons.”

He explained this could be in the form of temporary release or the release of prisoners towards the end of their sentences.
Inmates may need to be released due to a lack of single-capacity cells in the prison system. 

Mr Gillan said: “No-one to my knowledge as of this morning has actually been tested positive but they have been isolated in single-cell accommodation.

“We all know prisons are grossly overcrowded and that can only happen for a period of time.”


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