Murder investigations could be halted and emergency response times extended to help forces if the coronavirus becomes a major epidemic in the UK, it has been claimed.
A 28-page action plan is looking to introduce a series of measures if the outbreak progresses beyond the 'contain phase' – with the country's current number of confirmed cases at 51.
Up to a fifth of Britain's workforce could be sent home when the potential epidemic peaks, the Government has warned, as NHS England ordered tests on thousands of patients on Tuesday evening.
It is feared the virus – which has already killed more than 3,100 people worldwide – could spread undetected among those with respiratory issues, reports the Guardian .
This comes after England saw its second highest single day for confirmed cases after a dozen more were tested positive yesterday – all of whom are believed to have caught it abroad in Italy, Germany, Singapore, Japan and Iran.
While the first case of a British national at a quarantined hotel in Tenerife was confirmed by health officials.
In Washington state, meanwhile, a ninth virus patient died – with current infections sitting at over 90,000 across 73 countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his Government's battle plan on Tuesday which could see elderly people advised against attending social gatherings.
The plan hopes to keep public services, including hospitals and schools, running, while also stating the police will "concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order".
This is due to an expected "significant loss" of officers and other staff if the virus spreads to epidemic levels.
If plans are forced into fruition, it is likely only life-threatening crimes in action, as well as domestic and sexual violence and murder that would get a response.
An insider told the Guardian work of non time-critical homicide investigations could be delayed if there is no increase in risk.
"Everything goes on the protection of life and property,” the source said.
Officers could also be pulled out of neighbourhood policing, while investigations into historic sexual abuse could be postponed and on-going work to tackle gangs and organised crime would be handed over to frontline response.
In an effort to cut down on people reporting low-level crime the 101 non-emergency number could be disconnected, leading to fears this would only increase 999 calls.
The source told the newspaper that police forces, which have already been struggling with years of austerity cuts, face difficult decisions if the coronavirus becomes a worst-case scenario.
The army could also be drafted in to support the police – including replacing armed officers guarding parliament and Buckingham Palace, so they can be freed up for other policing roles.
However, the military – which would use plans originally devised for terrorist emergencies – may become stretched too far as they would be expected to also fill in for firefighters and possibly even bury the dead.
Furthermore, Westminster is looking to bring in legislation if "social distancing" becomes necessary, including border medical checks, more video-link court hearings and shutting down public gatherings.
But Boris Johnson has played down the prospect of widespread school closures, though legislation is likely to relax constraints on class sizes to cover for sick teachers.
The new powers are only likely to come about if the World Health Organisation confirms the risks have increased significantly or if countries group together and deem the outbreak has become an epidemic, and would lapse once the disease had been better contained again.
A major public information campaign is in the works with more details to be released later this week, while the prime minister has promised regular updates from now on in relation to coronavirus.
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