The Health and Protection Coronavirus Regulations 2020 are imminently expected to become law in England. This bill gives the Government wide-ranging powers unlike anything we have seen before. Here’s a quick guide to the Regulations which will come into force once the Secretary of State issues a notice on the Gov.uk website.
New powers for authorities
Condition A- Where a person is infected or contaminated with coronavirus or there is a risk that person might infect or contaminate others; or
Condition B- If a person has arrived in England on an aircraft ship or train from outside the UK or has left an infected area within the 14-day period preceding the date of the persons arrival in the UK.
- Where a person is detained and isolated, they must be reviewed at 24-hour intervals
- Isolation can be at a facility designated by the Government, in a person’s home, hospital or in another suitable place
- The power to impose an assessment or other restriction on any person where CONDITION A or B is met. These restrictions can be imposed on groups and include travel restrictions or contact with others not exceeding 14 days
- The power to require a person to answer questions about their health and relevant circumstances
What these powers mean in practice
- The Police will be the main enforcement tool and they will be able to use reasonable force to ensure compliance
- Appeals will have to be made to the Magistrates Court, which is unlikely to be able to react quickly enough to have any meaningful effect even if an appeal is ultimately successful
- If a restriction is imposed on a child under 18, the responsible adult will be required to secure compliance from the child or face enforcement action
- Reasonable grounds could be interpreted very widely indeed and simply being outside for a non-essential reason could be construed as a risk that you may infect others
Court of public opinion
- It is clear the tide is turning on those who carried on going to pubs, parks and public areas in the early days when the public were asked to voluntarily distance themselves socially
- We are now seeing public shaming on social media for people using public transport to go to work
Sufficient public outcry could well lead to the Police using the new powers of removal and/or enforced detention of non-essential workers or to deal with public gatherings, whether they are workplaces or elsewhere.