Photo taken on March 23, 2020 shows a general view of the House of Commons in London, Britain. A new emergency bill to give the British government great powers to fight Coronavirus was approved by lawmakers Monday night.
Photo taken on March 23, 2020 shows a general view of the House of Commons in London, Britain. A new emergency bill to give the British government great powers to fight Coronavirus was approved by lawmakers Monday night.
Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Handout via Xinhua

LONDON -- A new emergency bill to give the British government great powers to fight coronavirus was approved by lawmakers Monday night.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the virus is the most serious public health emergency the world has faced in a century.

"To defeat it, we are proposing extraordinary measures of a kind never seen before in peacetime. Our goal is to protect life and to protect every part of the National Health Service (NHS)," he said.

Hancock added that the bill jointly agreed with the governments of Britain, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland "gives us the power to fight the virus with everything that we have."

The bill was raced through the Commons in a single day to ensure it gets onto the statute book within days.

By a unanimous vote, MPs from all political parties voted to back the Coronavirus Bill which will stay in place for two years, with a review every six months.

Hancock said: "Measures are significant departures from the way we normally do things, but they are strictly temporary. I think that they are proportionate to the threat we face, and they will be activated only on the basis of the best possible scientific evidence."

Measures set out in the 329-page Coronavirus Bill give police new powers to shut down events and order people to go home using sweeping powers over British life not seen since the Second World War.

Police, public health and immigration officers will be given powers to detain people refusing to follow health guidance, while police and public will get powers to enforce sensible public health restrictions.

Fines of up to 1,000 pounds (1,155 U.S. dollars) will be handed to people failing to comply with the rules laid out in the new law.

Events and gatherings will also be prohibited or restricted if the public health situation deems it necessary for the control of coronavirus.

The new bill also allows for the emergency registration of health and social care professionals, including nurses, midwives, paramedics and social workers, many of them currently retired.

Hancock told MPs that by Monday night 7,500 clinicians, including some medically-qualified MPs, had so far answered the call to return to work.

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