PEOPLE flouting Scotland’s “lockdown” face being arrested and forced into isolation, Humza Yousaf has warned.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary announced the move as official figures revealed 16 people in Scotland have died as a result of coronavirus. Across the UK, there have been 422 deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.

The scale of the outbreak is expected to be so significant that it emerged the military is to help run one of the UK’s largest exhibition spaces as it is turned into a field hospital.

Up to 4000 patients will be able to receive treatment at the ExCeL Centre in London, which is being dubbed the Nightingale Hospital. It will be staffed by NHS workers supported by the armed forces and will initially provide about 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen.

As Scotland and the UK entered the first day of an effective lockdown, Holyrood – now sitting for just one day a week – debated emergency Westminster legislation to combat the virus, including shutting down non-essential businesses and measures that would mean defying the lockdown could be treated as a criminal offence.

Yousaf also revealed prisoners could be released if the jail system is overwhelmed by coronavirus.

He told MSPs the “unprecedented” arrest powers could be invoked against individuals, events and

public gatherings when there is a

“serious and imminent threat to

public health”.

Those found breaching public health regulations will face a fine or “other enforcement action”, he said.

Explaining the new powers set out in the UK Government’s emergency Coronavirus Bill, expected to come into force by the end of the month, the Justice Secretary added: “This includes powers allowing the police in Scotland to support and enforce public health measures, including powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health.

“The bill also gives Scottish Ministers the power to restrict or prohibit events or gatherings where incidence or transmission of coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health.

“These measures are unprecedented but we must take this action now to save lives.”

MSPs yesterday unanimously passed a legislative consent motion in support of the UK Coronavirus Bill, which is expected to gain royal

assent today.

Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary, Michael Russell, told Holyrood the Scottish Government would act to introduce the new powers as soon as emergency legislation at Westminster is passed.

He also pledged their use would be kept under constant review, in line with scientific advice.

Russell told MSPs: “We have

now taken the decision, as part of

our response, to commence upon royal assent the powers within the bill, which will ensure that all necessary enforcement action can be taken to implement social distancing and restriction on gatherings, events and operation of business activity without further delay.

“Those powers allow us to make emergency regulations where we believe there is an urgent need for them.

“We believe there is an urgent need and we will make those regulations now. That means those regulations will come into force immediately and will remain in force provided they are approved by Parliament within 28 days of being made.”

Russell said new restrictions, which effectively amount to Scotland being placed in lockdown, are “difficult” and “distressing”.

But he insisted the legislation, which introduces measures aimed at increasing the number of available health and care staff and protecting the food chain, was “essential”.

Russell said: “Pandemics have been experienced before – each time there is fear, there is dread, there are difficult decisions and, yes, there is death.

“But there is also courage and

hope and determination. We learn from those who have gone before

us, because they made it through and they told the tale, and we intend to do the same.”

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “It is, in my view, essential that both the Scottish Government and the UK Government have the emergency powers to tackle the unprecedented crisis we’re now facing.”

MSPs from all parties agreed Holyrood should give its approval to the Westminster legislation.

Labour leader Richard Leonard said

the Scottish Parliament should scrap its Easter break. He said: “At a time of

a national emergency, we think this national Parliament should not go into Easter recess but that we should continue to scrutinise what is happening in the midst of this emergency.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie told MSPs the Coronavirus Bill was necessary but not something his party would support in normal circumstances. He said the bill did not go far enough, calling for an increase to the level of statutory sick pay or the introduction of a universal basic income.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie gave his party’s support to the legislative consent motion, adding that he looked forward to it being repealed.

In a further measure announced yesterday, the Scottish Government plans to impose a six-month ban on evictions of tenants in private rented accommodation. Ministers will outlaw evictions for those living in properties rented privately or social housing due to the coronavirus outbreak.