The global coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said, as eight people were confirmed to have died in the UK.
Earlier, Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans for the health service in his Budget and pledged security and support for those who are sick and unable to work due to the spread of Covid-19.
Mr Sunak said: “Whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with coronavirus it will get – whether it’s millions of pounds or billions of pounds, whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS.”
He also announced that statutory sick pay (SSP) will be paid from day one of illness, Sunak announced that this would also be available to all those advised to self-isolate even if they had not yet presented with symptoms.
There will also be no need to go to the doctors for a sick note, which will be made available by the NHS 111 service.
Sunak said: ‘Not everyone will be eligible, for instance those who are self employed or in the gig economy, and they need our help too. During this period we will offer quicker and easier access benefits.’
Nowhere near enough
However, GMB, Britain’s general union, says there is ‘nowhere near enough’ in today’s budget to help workers forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “There’s nowhere near enough in the the budget to help working people who have to self-isolate – the Government can dress it up however they want.
“Statutory sick pay is £18 per day, no one can live on that, and that’s what the government seem to expect the 20% of the population who may have to self-isolate to do. If it’s possible, let’s see Ministers do it.
“Coronavirus has highlighted the abysmal state of sick pay in this country. This Budget was an opportunity for the Government to right a wrong, but typically they’ve completely ignored it.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government’s coronavirus plans will leave millions of workers behind. Without urgent action, too many will be plunged into poverty and debt.
“Today’s announcements won’t help the nearly two million people who miss out on sick pay because they don’t earn enough.”