I would like to reassure you that all the measures in the coronavirus bill are temporary, and proportionate to the threat we face. It is important that they will only be used when strictly necessary, and will only be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that sufficient staff are available, and deployed where they are most needed, as well as supporting members of the public, containing and slowing the virus, and managing the deceased with respect and dignity.
It is important to state that local authorities will still be expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period, and the legislation does not remove the duty of care towards an individual's risk of serious neglect or harm. These powers would only be used if demand pressures and workforce illness during the pandemic meant that local authorities were at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties and only last the duration of the emergency. It would ensure that local authorities will continue to be able to deliver the best possible care services during the peak and to protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.
The Government recognises people’s concerns about ensuring the dead are treated according to their own and their families' wishes. The measures in the bill related to treating the deceased with dignity and respect would only be used in the most extreme situations where there is a risk to public health, and in those cases only where scientific evidence and operational advice deems it necessary. Personal choice will be respected as far as possible, especially as regards how we handle loved ones after they have passed. I understand the purpose of the provisions is to ensure that people’s choices can be adhered to, that the dignity of the deceased is respected and that support services for families are in place, even in times of great stress. Ministers assure me there should be no public health reason or capacity reason why someone who wished to be buried would be cremated.