COVID-19 Related Legal Updates
On this page you will find a range of COVID-19 related insights that cover the full range of services that Forsters provides including corporate commercial disputes, employment matters, real estate litigation and more. Our insights look closely at the direct impact of the virus, as well as the long-term effects of the measures the Government is putting in place to contain the virus.
21 March 2022
The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill is being finalised in Parliament and should receive Royal Assent by the next quarter day, 25 March 2022. The Act will be called the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022.
06 January 2022
Unfortunately, businesses often face financial difficulties and the pandemic in particular, has caused problems for many. This is a stressful and worrying time for any business, even if they have no bank debt, but what are your options if you do have debt finance in place and are at risk of defaulting under the facility agreement?
22 December 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic created a perfect storm for the hotels sector and, despite ever improving signs of recovery, the resulting devastation will take time and innovation to repair. Unprecedented economic life-support provided by the UK government over the last two years has kept the gathering clouds at bay, but there could well be casualties in 2022 and beyond. This was the conclusion of a roundtable discussion hosted by Forsters on 10 November 2021.
21 December 2021
The post-COVID bounce back in M&A deals has led a lot of entrepreneurs to consider selling their businesses. Business owners are aware that today’s extremely healthy M&A market will not continue indefinitely and that the window of opportunity will soon begin to close.
12 September 2021
Commercial Real Estate Partner, Katherine Ekers, joined the EG Property podcast to discuss the question 'How do investors see post-pandemic London?'.
6 August 2021
Joe Beeston, Counsel in Forsters' Employment team, has written an article for Boutique Hotel News outlining some of the issues faced by hotel HR teams as the hotel sector cautiously begins a return to normality following a turbulent couple of years in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
30 July 2021
Employers and employees alike will be well aware that on 19 July 2021 the government lifted its instruction that people should work from home.
11 March 2021
The government has announced that the measures which were put in place last year to assist commercial tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic will be extended, once again, to 30 June 2021.
15 February 2021
The COVID-19 vaccination programme is well underway and with reports suggesting that all adults will be offered a vaccine by the end of May, employers will likely be considering the implications of this for their staff. This article considers some of the key issues.
5 February 2021
Episode Six: Breaking Good - Episode Six: Putting the children first - top tips for separated parents navigating the COVID-19 pandemic
Co-hosts Marcus Brigstocke and Head of Family, Jo Edwards are joined by preeminent family Barrister Matthew Brunsdon-Tully to discuss the challenges facing separated parents during the pandemic and tips on how best to resolve the issues, drawing on experience of the common questions that have arisen.
15 January 2021
Today the Supreme Court found substantially in favour of the Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA"), and in turn, policyholders (including tenants and possibly landlords) in the business interruption insurance test case relating to losses suffered due to the pandemic.
4 January 2021
The long-cherished dream of many people, i.e. cashing in the South London three-bed semi and buying the gorgeous villa with sea views (and good broadband) before retirement, is now a tangible possibility – or is it?
31 December 2020
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt, luxury homes are increasingly being adapted to accommodate our new lives but the need for relevant planning permissions must not be overlooked.
30 December 2020
Just how much SDLT might you pay on your dream house in the country from which to shelter from COVID-lockdown 3, 4 or n-squared?
16 December 2020
Commercial rent recovery restrictions extended to 31 March 2021 and review of commercial landlord and tenant legislation to be launched
Further to our update in September, last week the government announced that it will be further extending the forfeiture moratorium deadline, as well as the timeframe on restrictions on a landlord’s right to exercise CRAR and issue winding up petitions.
15 December 2020
As more people escape to the country, will there be an increase in the purchase of luxury aparthotel rooms?
If escaping to the country by the relocation of a family home or main residence is taken as a given during these turbulent times, will we see a rise in demand for serviced apartments and specifically, luxury aparthotel rooms in London and the UK’s other principal cities, in the immediate to short-term?
15 December 2020
Although the Oxford Covid vaccine currently looks promising, it seems as though the Covid-19 pandemic will have long lasting implications for the way we work and live. As a result, the housing market has seen a shift of emphasis towards additional living space requirements and moves out of central London.
1 December 2020
The devastating impact of UK lockdown on the high street has been put into sharp focus, as the Arcadia Group (which owns brands including Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins) has confirmed that it has filed notice to appoint administrators. Arcadia follows Debenhams, Cath Kidston, Jaeger, TM Lewin and a long list of other household names who have taken similar action since March this year.
17 November 2020
The fate of many businesses will be decided over the coming weeks as the Supreme Court considers whether business interruption insurance policies must pay out in respect of losses suffered by businesses as a result of the first lockdown.
10 November 2020
With England now having entered a second lockdown (until at least 2 December 2020), employers should think about the steps they can take to ensure their employees remain engaged, motivated and healthy whilst working from home. We have set out some thoughts on how employers can look to achieve this below.
9 November 2020
With corporate activity starting to increase, we thought it would be useful to consider some of the key employment aspects that can arise on a corporate transaction.
5 November 2020
In yet another development, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has confirmed that he will announce today that the scheme will be further extended until March 2021.
22 October 2020
The Winter Economy Plan, launched by the Government on 24 September 2020, contains several measures designed to support businesses throughout the current coronavirus pandemic, including the extension of the Government-backed loan schemes.
21 October 2020
Many employers have sadly needed to make redundancies in recent months due to the pandemic and this trend will likely continue. This article provides a useful summary of the key considerations for employers who are contemplating a headcount reduction.
2 October 2020
Parental Contact: Self-Isolation – a reasonable excuse to not comply with your Child Arrangements Order
There are, sadly, huge numbers of separated parents whose children are the subject of a 'Child Arrangements Order', being an order of the Court specifying with whom the child lives or spends time.
28 September 2020
We understand that dealing with separation and divorce can be highly sensitive and emotion-charged at the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic may have added to your concerns, with additional complications to your personal circumstances or you may have additional questions on how best to start the divorce and separation process. The Forsters Family team are on hand to guide you through the best options available to you in the current circumstances and can do so in the way that is comfortable for you.
22 September 2020
Last week, the High Court handed down its judgment in the much publicised COVID-19 business interruption insurance test case, which was brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on behalf of policyholders, the majority of which were small- and medium-sized enterprises. While the ruling has been hailed a success for policyholders, the extent to which insurers will have to pay out under such policies is still an unknown and the devil will certainly be in the detail.
17 September 2020
The Government has announced that the current legislation which prevent landlords from forfeiting commercial leases, or levying execution on the tenant's goods by way of CRAR to recover outstanding rent, will be extended from 30 September 2020 until 31 December 2020 to provide further protection for tenants who have not paid their rents or other sums due under their leases.
9 September 2020
It’s a well-known fact that private equity houses, hedge funds, family offices and other investors are sitting on an enormous pile of dry powder. Bloomberg estimated that at the beginning of 2020 private equity houses alone had amassed a record US$1.5 trillion in unspent capital.
28 August 2020
We reported in June about changes to the residential possession procedure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week the government implemented further changes and we look at the current rules.
17 August 2020
The Government has announced that it will introduce a temporary change in the law to allow wills to be witnessed using video technology during the coronavirus pandemic. It is set to come into force in September, but will apply retrospectively to wills executed from 31 January 2020.
5 August 2020
On 30 July 2020, the UK Government announced changes to the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) following the European Commission’s amendments to the "Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak" (EU Temporary Framework). These changes effectively mean that more SMEs will be able to borrow up to £5 million under the CBILS than previously.
30 July 2020
A question which has been considered by many landlords, tenants and advisors over the past few months but for which we now have the answer courtesy of HMRC.
15 July 2020
The pandemic has brought about numerous challenges for employers and with the continued easing of lockdown measures, it is unlikely that these will disappear anytime soon. As businesses re-open and staff begin to return from furlough leave, employers will need to consider various issues. This article considers some of the key employment law and health and safety issues in this area.
15 July 2020
Like all businesses, rural estates and property owners are suffering from the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown. They should, therefore, continue to make the most of the economic support available from the government. We have written about relevant measures introduced by the government in the past few months, including the furlough scheme, and set out the details here of further schemes announced in the government’s summer economic statement:
14 July 2020
Forsters and UK Israel Business host Real Estate Breakfast event on investment, development and financing
On 7 July Forsters and UK Israel Business hosted an online Real Estate Breakfast event to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the commercial and residential UK markets, with particular regard to investments, development and financing.
7 July 2020
As a result of COVID-19, many businesses have been forced to stop trading during the lockdown or have changed the nature of their activities. Aside from the commercial aspects of a change in business activity, various tax implications may also arise, including the business’ ability to carry forward losses.
2 July 2020
As the UK eases out of lockdown and we focus on getting the economy back on track, Corporate Partner, Christine Dubignon, considers five steps that businesses can take to be “investment ready”.
2 July 2020
Giving a speech on 30 June 2020, Boris Johnson declared the UK government’s intention to deliver “the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the second world war” as it attempts to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
22 June 2020
Covid-19 and commercial property rent recovery: new code of practice and restrictions on remedies to be extended
On 19 June 2020, the Government published the Code of Practice for commercial property relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic ("the Code"). The Code was drafted by a Working Party comprising landlord and tenant representative bodies.
22 June 2020
The pandemic has brought about numerous challenges for employers, which will continue as lock-down measures start to ease. As businesses re-open and staff start to return from furlough leave, employers will need to ensure that they have appropriate health and safety procedures in place having regard to the ever changing government guidance. This will be no easy task. This article considers some of the key employment law and health and safety issues in this area.
18 June 2020
The government has announced a number of changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The extension to the Scheme has been welcomed by employers, but the practicalities of operating it are becoming increasingly complex.
10 June 2020
With substantial sums still outstanding for the March Quarter, landlords face an even tougher battle collecting rents for the coming June Quarter. This Guide looks at the options likely to be available in light of Government action to date and future likely restrictions.
9 June 2020
We have already reported about the extension implemented by the Coronavirus Act 2020 to the length of notice that most possession notices and notices to quit must give before possession proceedings may be started.
3 June 2020
A practical checklist for the post-Covid world. The Covid-19 pandemic has had two major implications for family governance structures.
3 June 2020
Following the publication of the proposed Corporate Insolvency & Governance Bill ("the Bill") on 20 May 2020, the Government then issued a Press Release on 29 May 2020 announcing its intention to introduce a Code of Practice by 24 June 2020 to provide landlords and high street business tenants with clarity and reassurance over rent payments.
2 June 2020
If coronavirus has proved one thing, it's that Samuel Johnson was wrong when he said: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life". If anything the opposite is now true. With the bright lights of city living suddenly dimmed, the fresh air and open spaces of the countryside have never felt more attractive.
27 May 2020
In an effort to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic while still seeking to limit the spread of the virus, the Government has announced that most non-essential shops, department stores and shopping centres will be allowed to reopen in June 2020.
27 May 2020
Now, more than ever, companies need to consider and put in place a business continuity strategy. Leaving a business rudderless or having to deal with complex continuity issues will, at best, take up management time and cause distress at a time when emotions may be running high and at worst, could result in the failure of the business.
26 May 2020
The Corporate Insolvency & Governance Bill ("the Bill") was laid before Parliament on 20 May 2020. It follows on from the Government's Press Release of 23 April 2020 and it is due to be discussed next in the House of Commons on 3 June 2020. The proposed provisions of the Bill have taken almost a month to draft but they are likely to be subject to both substantial opposition from landlords as well as much debate in both Houses, the Commons and the Lords.
19 May 2020
The UK has moved to a new lockdown phase following Boris Johnson's statement on 10 May and subsequent government guidance. We summarise the key points for rural estates.
18 May 2020
Property Litigation Partner, Ben Barrison, and head of Forsters' corporate occupier practice, Glenn Dunn, have co-authored an article for EG entitled, ‘Office space: how to downsize for the new normal’.
18 May 2020
It’s hard to keep up: barely a day goes by without another change to government guidance or policy being made. This article summarises the recent key changes which employers should be aware of.
15 May 2020
As we move into a period where restrictions are eased and businesses and workplaces are reopening, and furloughing will start coming down, many business owners and their employees will be navigating the challenges of returning to work and the business decisions and costs that go alongside that. We have set out, below, a summary of the government-backed loan schemes available to businesses to support industry as we collectively work towards a "new normal".
14 May 2020
Update on house moves: Guidance published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Previously, moving house was only permitted where "reasonably necessary" and parties were strongly encouraged to delay completion where the property had not been vacant. This position has been relaxed and transactions can broadly go ahead as normal, unless parties are self-isolating or symptomatic.
12 May 2020
The increase in the use of loans issued by the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) by local authorities in recent years has been well documented, with Councils borrowing billions of pounds at low rates of interest to fund investment in commercial real estate across the UK.
7 May 2020
It is a sad reality that some employers will need to make redundancies as a result of the pandemic. It is clear that the ‘lock-down’ will only be lifted gradually and that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will not last indefinitely, and the combination of these is forcing some employers to take action to protect their balance sheets. This article provides a useful summary of the key considerations for employers who are contemplating a headcount reduction.
7 May 2020
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the hotel industry, with some commentators suggesting that it could take upwards of five years for the sector to fully recover. Hotels are truly multi-faceted businesses, often involving property interests and construction arrangements, commercial contracts, and underlying financial arrangements, as well as employing many people in various roles. What are the key legal issues hoteliers should consider during these uncertain times?
7 May 2020
Given the unprecedented events of recent weeks, it is perhaps fair to say that data law compliance has not been at the forefront of most employers’ minds. However, it is important that businesses remember that data protection legislation (including the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 and the European’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)) continues to apply during the pandemic, which is particularly important given many employers are now collecting (or plan to collect) additional health data.
6 May 2020
Given the numerous obligations and liabilities heaped upon trustees, many will be wondering what they should be doing during this Covid-19 crisis whilst it is not business as usual.
5 May 2020
We don’t know when. We don’t know how. But, at some point, life as we knew it will eventually resume. Whilst practices and procedures which will need to be adopted will be driven by government guidance (initial drafts of which have recently been circulated) and it is clear that restrictions will be lifted gradually and not anytime soon, it is still worthwhile for employers to start thinking about the practicalities of life after ‘lock-down’ and how they will bring staff back to work.
1 May 2020
Schoolwork, Cash in the Attic and Tax Liabilities – How Working From Home Could Result in Unintended Tax Liabilities
Many of us are privileged and are able to work from home (WFH) during the current crisis. As a result, a large proportion of us are now well aware that WFH has many implications and we've all read articles about the importance of routine, a good breakfast, etc. However, there are also a number of fiscal consequences and your tax return may look a little different next time as a result of this prolonged period of WFH (and that will be subject to another blog!).
30 April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has, without a doubt, reshaped our personal and professional lives. All industries and sectors have been affected in one way or another and are responding in different ways. Some areas of the hotel industry have taken steps which no-one could have foreseen just a few months ago. So, how is the hotel industry responding to the crisis, what measures and arrangements are being put in place and what are the longer term considerations for it?
29 April 2020
The art industry, like most other industries, is not immune to the effects of the coronavirus. It is important for galleries, dealers, museums, auction houses, and other art businesses to consider the employment issues arising as a result of the pandemic. This is no easy task, especially when guidance and regulations are being introduced and changed at unprecedented speed.
28 April 2020
Art in the time of Coronavirus: HMRC relaxes the public access requirements for Conditional Exemption
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has temporarily relaxed the public access requirement for Conditional Exemption, and urged the owners of heritage property to follow the restrictions now imposed by the UK government on business operation and public movement due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
28 April 2020
With a little thought and willingness to try new processes, private companies can continue to function in a lockdown situation.
24 April 2020
Podcast host, Knowledge Development Lawyer Miri Stickland, is joined by a trio of partners, Magnus Hassett from Commercial Real Estate, Ben Barrison from Property Litigation and Emily Holdstock from our Construction team, to discuss some of the issues we have seen affecting the real estate market as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
24 April 2020
COVID-19: Relaxation of the Statutory Residence Test for individuals carrying out coronavirus related activities
In an effort to attract and retain those with expertise in fields that may help in fighting COVID-19 in the UK, the Chancellor has announced that the statutory residence test (SRT) will be relaxed for certain individuals for the period 1 March to 1 June (although the duration of the concessionary period will be kept under review).
24 April 2020
With one third of the global population living under lockdown, we are witnessing the dawn of a new, and hopefully temporary, normal. We are all having to adapt to significant changes to our daily lives, social interaction and the operation of our businesses.
24 April 2020
The guidance for employers and employees relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the ‘Scheme’) has now had several iterations. The Chancellor has issued the Treasury Direction (the ‘Direction’), which sets out the Scheme’s formal legal framework, and announced an extension to the Scheme until the end of June 2020. The HMRC on-line portal for making claims is now open. With so many moving parts, we thought it would be useful to answer some frequently asked questions in relation to the Scheme.
24 April 2020
Landlords seeking to recover rent from their commercial tenants were dealt a further blow on 23 April 2020 when the Government announced further measures to protect commercial tenants during the lockdown period.
23 April 2020
There are currently three government-backed funding schemes available to businesses.
21 April 2020
Since 26 March 2020 when we last surveyed how mediation, arbitration and litigation were being conducted in the current circumstances, matters have evolved at a rapid pace, particularly in the English court system. We have seen unprecedented use of technology as the courts focus on getting business done as usual so far as possible.
21 April 2020
COVID-19: HMRC guidance on Company Residence, Permanent Establishment and related issues regarding the Economic Substance Test
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) published guidance on 9 April on the implications of COVID-19-related travel restrictions on a company's residence status. Such travel restrictions may force directors or employees to be present in the UK when they would not be here under normal circumstances. This situation raises concerns as to whether a foreign company may become resident for tax purposes in the UK because the central management and control (CMC) of the company might be considered to have moved here.
21 April 2020
According to the British Art Market Federation, the UK arts and antiques market is comprised of nearly 8,000 businesses, providing direct employment for over 41,000 people. It is the third largest in the world with over a 20% global share and, therefore, a significant sector in the UK economy.
20 April 2020
Despite stimulus packages from the Government, it unfortunately seems inevitable that a large number of businesses will enter liquidation in the short and medium term as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is felt in nearly every sector.
17 April 2020
Note for landlords of commercial properties- particular points re rent recovery from tenants in current market conditions
Many tenants (particular those in the retail and hospitality sectors- but also a considerable number of office and industrial tenants) are not paying their rent in full or, in many cases, at all. Some of these tenants are major companies (such as JD Sports and WH Smith) who one would think could afford to pay. According to press reports, only 48% of commercial rents had been paid for the March 2020 quarter by the start of April.
17 April 2020
In times of growing economic uncertainty business owners will face numerous commercial and strategic challenges. Ultimately, this may result in corporate restructuring or asset and business sales in order to manage liquidity or in more serious cases, protect parties from insolvency.
15 April 2020
Emily Holdstock, Partner in our Construction team, has written for legal real estate blog 'Law In The Lockdown' discussing the implications of COVID-19 on the Construction industry.
14 April 2020
Charitable arts organisations have been hugely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. All of the large museums and galleries have had to cancel exhibitions and events, with enormous revenue consequences.
14 April 2020
The social restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have complicated tasks that would have been simple only a few weeks ago. One such task is the making of a will, which must now be done in a way that takes account of the need for social distancing while also complying with the law.
14 April 2020
Family partner, Matthew Brunsdon-Tully’s comments have been published in the Financial Times’ article entitled ‘UK divorce settlements challenged as finances become strained’.
9 April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a human tragedy and the first call on our time and energy is the welfare of friends and relatives. But we must confront the economic implications as well. For rural estates, the connection between the human and the economic is close given the central role they play in binding together communities and looking after the physical landscape. Therefore, it is particularly important that estates take sensible and sensitive financial steps to weather this storm.
9 April 2020
The restrictions on movement imposed by the Government, in its attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, have exacerbated the already difficult trading conditions in which many retailers find themselves. Recent days have seen the sad news that both Debenhams and Cath Kidston have filed notice to appoint administrators. It can be expected that others will follow.
7 April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has increased pressures on the charitable sector in an unprecedented fashion. Many operational charities are facing a perfect storm because their usual sources of fundraising (whether through public donations or fundraising events) have been depleted in circumstances where beneficiary needs have grown exponentially. In these times, many charities are more reliant on their charitable funders i.e. grant makers, foundations and, in some cases, donor advised funds.
7 April 2020
You need a valid energy performance certificate (EPC) before marketing a building for sale or rent, whether domestic or non-domestic property. The same requirement applies on construction of a new building and potentially when alterations are carried out to an existing building. However, with England and Wales in a state of “lockdown”, is it fair to expect this legal requirement to remain?
6 April 2020
The Working Time Regulations 1998 have been amended so that workers can carry over four weeks’ holiday entitlement for up to two years if they have been prevented from taking it due to the effects of the current coronavirus epidemic.
3 April 2020
The Government has recently announced a "VAT Holiday" for businesses, meaning that the VAT payment due for the periods ended 31 March 2020, 30 April 2020, 31 May 2020 and 30 June 2020 won't now be due until 31 March 2021.
31 March 2020
Few would have anticipated only a few weeks ago that by March, a large part of the world, including the UK, would be or have been in virtual lockdown with many planes grounded and borders closed. However, that is the result of the spread of COVID-19 and, while there are clearly many more significant challenges in relation to this virus for health and the global economy, there are also a number of tax and immigration consequences for individuals with connections in more than one jurisdiction, as well as for those based in the UK.
27 March 2020
Head of Residential Property, Lucy Barber, comments in the MailOnline on what buyers and sellers are allowed to do as the coronavirus lockdown impacts sales in the property market.
27 March 2020
Head of Property Litigation, Natasha Rees, answers a reader’s question in The Times providing advice to homeowners and renters affected by Covid-19.
27 March 2020
You may have read about the Government’s intention to change the law to stop tenants being evicted as a result of Coronavirus. A Bill has been passed today which will impact on current possession claims and also on the service of notices.
26 March 2020
Over the past few weeks, developers and contractors have been assessing the potential implications of coronavirus and COVID-19 on construction projects. Whilst matters continue to change on a daily basis (and this note considers the position as things stand on Thursday 26 March 2020) we have summarised the key contractual principles below.
26 March 2020
In this short blog post, Dispute Resolution Partner, Andrew Head, and Senior Solicitor, Bryan Shacklady, take a look at the implications of the coronavirus lockdown for dispute resolution, focusing on three key dispute resolution mechanisms: litigation, arbitration and mediation.
24 March 2020
On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the “Retention Scheme”), which is designed to give employers support for paying salaries to those who would otherwise have been laid off due to the pandemic. This will be welcome news for many employers, although the details provided so far are very sparse and leave many questions unanswered.
24 March 2020
The majority of leases in England require tenants to pay one quarter of the rent on 25 March with landlords typically being able to forfeit the lease by peaceable re-entry if the rent is not paid within 14 or 21 days.
18 March 2020
Given that leases do not contain force majeure clauses, and they will not be frustrated by any temporary restriction or inability to occupy the premises, tenants and guarantors will remain bound by their lease obligations and, in particular, their liability for the rent.
13 March 2020
With the effects of Coronavirus sweeping across global markets, businesses are evaluating the practical impact on their trade. Many industries are already badly affected – whether by imposed travel bans or the quarantining of employees and customers – and business owners are concerned that disrupted trade may leave them with contractual liabilities.
6 March 2020
The WHO has declared the COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern with the potential to become a pandemic, and the government has cautioned that cases of COVID-19 in the UK are likely to rise significantly over the coming days and weeks.