What’s in the emergency legislation (Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020)?
By John Brace – Local Government Editor
On Monday, the Health Minister Matt Hancock using Henry VIII powers made it a criminal offence to try and leave Covid-19 (2019-nCov) quarantine (as well as making other matters a criminal offence too). Parliament will have its say on the regulations after they’ve come into force (rather than the more usual situation which is before).
The new legislation which can be read here called Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 however goes much further than that.
It applies to England only (presumably devolution will mean similar legislation in the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), but once Health Minister Matt Hancock has published a notice on a website (which has already happened) declaring “that the incidence or transmission of coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health” it allows for:-
(a) a registered public health consultant or the Secretary of State to detain people (regulation 4),
(c) further restrictions and requirements (regulation 7),
(d) isolation of persons suspected to be infected with coronavirus (regulation 8),
(e) detention or isolation (additional provision) (regulation 9),
(f) restrictions or requirements (groups) (regulation 10),
(g) power of a justice of the peace to make a part 2A order (regulation 11),
(h) appeals (regulation 12),
(i) enforcement (regulation 13),
(j) initial detection of persons to enable screening and assessment (regulation 14),
(k) offences (regulation 15),
(l) expiry (regulation 16) which is in two years time.
Essentially – certain civil liberties have been suspended (usually that only happens during a war) but rather interestingly in the explanatory memorandum it explains that before this legislation enforcement of a quarantine period meant local councils had to ask for a Justice of the Peace (magistrate) to agree to it, but for the reasons outlined in the explanatory memorandum to the legislation national government doesn’t appear to think local councils and the judiciary would be able to deal with it.
Essentially the national government is trying to prevent an epidemic.
Yet human behaviour being what it is – my personal view is that a certain amount of this is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
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