Lord Falconer ‘impressed’ by government coronavirus response

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Labour peer Lord Charlie Falconer has praised the way the government is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, as it published its battle plan yesterday.

The former justice secretary told talkRADIO he thought Boris Johnson’s administration had struck the right balance between “being open with the country and at the same time not causing the country to panic”.

“I have honestly been impressed by the extent to which they’ve gone into an aggressive mode and what appears to be an open mode in trying to deal with the virus,” he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

He added: “I think they are providing some degree of leadership which I am admiring. I think we should be support the government as much as we can because this is a national emergency. We've all got to hang together."

The government is today launching a renewed public information campaign urging people to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the disease.

Adverts are to be rolled out across print, radio, online and billboards in a bid to drive home the message that regular hand-washing is the single most important action individuals can take in the fight against Covid-19.

The adverts say washing should be for 20 seconds, using soap and water or hand sanitiser.

There are currently 85 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Britain and a British woman in Tenerife has also tested positive.

The government has warned that up to a fifth of the UK workforce could be off sick when the virus hits its peak.

But Boris Johnson reassured yesterday: “I have no doubt at all that with the scientific advice that we have, with the levels of preparedness that we have, with our fantastic NHS, our ability to test and to survey the spread of the disease, that this country is going to get through coronavirus.”

Lord Falconer is now calling on the government to change statutory sick pay to accommodate those on low incomes and zerio-hours contracts who have to go into self-isolation.

He wants sick pay to be available after day 1, not day 4, without the need of a public health notice and to allow 14 days without a sick note rather than a week.

"Should your focus at this stage be to provide as much protection as possible against contamination or should you priority be to stop people abusing the rules?

"Plainly, at the moment it should be to stop contamination and that's why you should be as generous as you possibly can in relation to coronavirus."

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