Coronavirus is sweeping the globe, and cases are being declared every day with 93,158 infected globally since the virus began in China in December. Now in the UK, there are 85 diagnoses of coronavirus, and the Government has released its four-phase plan to tackle the spread of the virus.
Coronavirus – known officially as COVID-19 – targets the respiratory system and causes fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia and even death, to date killing 3,202 people around the world.
There is advice for those who have travelled to and from areas of high risk – with some people warned to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Self-isolation means not attending work, school or any public areas, and staying home away from people.
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But what does that mean for sick pay?
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced workers who have been told to self-isolate will be given sick pay from day one.
Boris Johnson said people who self-isolate are “helping to protect all of us by slowing the spread of the virus” and did not deserve to be penalised financially.
He told the Commons sick pay changes would be brought in as part of emergency coronavirus legislation.
Mr Johnson told MPs: “If they stay at home and if we ask people to self-isolate, they may lose out financially.
“So, I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules, and I think that’s the right way forward.
“Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing.”
The change comes as the Government warned up to one in five workers could be off sick at the peak of the virus.
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What statutory sick pay (SSP) are you are entitled to under Government rules?
Currently, if you are too ill to work you can get £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks.
The amount of £94.25 is the minimum an employee is entitled to, but normally to get this you would need to qualify for SSP first.
You may get more if your company has a sick pay scheme (or ‘occupational scheme’) – this will be detailed in your employment contract.
Under the previous guidelines, you would also have to have been off work sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days).
However now SSP can be paid to those who have been told to self-isolate from day one.
The change in legislation comes as the UK works towards containing the outbreak of coronavirus.
Some countries have declared lockdowns, with Italy closing all schools and universities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said community transmission of COVID-19 is undoubtedly already occurring throughout the UK.
Professor Whitty told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “At this point in time we think it is likely, not definite, that we will move into onward transmission and an epidemic here in the UK.”
He told BBC Breakfast there could be a need to do “extreme things” to protect the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
But for most people, “this will be a mild or moderate disease, anything from a sniffle to having to go to bed for a few days, rather like with mild flu,” he said.
On the NHS, Prof Whitty said: “The NHS will always cope because the NHS is an emergency service which is very good at adapting to what it finds itself with.”
But he said if the UK sees a very large epidemic, “then it will put very high pressure on the NHS”, and there could be “several weeks which could be very difficult” for the health service and wider society.
Professor Whitty said retired doctors could be called back to work in the NHS, and existing doctors asked to switch jobs to relieve pressure.
Despite some places around the world closing schools and implementing lockdowns, Professor Whitty suggested that shutting down cities in the UK would not be effective now.
He said: “Closing cities is really only appropriate if you have a significant epidemic in one particular place and almost nothing anywhere else.
“It made sense for China to respond in the way it did but it would be very unlikely here… This is now in multiple places in Europe and around the world.”
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