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Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

Our People - Omiros Nicholas
3 April, 2020

We all know where we are – we are in the middle of a health storm that has touched every single aspect of our ‘normal’ lives. From the medical to the moral, to what has value and what is (and maybe always was) superfluous – almost everything, it seems, has changed. 

For the first time we might be asking who really looks after us and who are we really responsible for?

Maybe it’s too much to digest while we are in the thick of it, while we adjust to the realisation of how fragile it all is – so, here’s the concrete, the black and white of it – the four-dimensional reality for England.

Emergency legislation has been introduced to help fight the invisible foe which is ravaging the world over.  Alongside the Coronavirus Act 2020 sit the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 which put restrictions on our movement and gatherings; this is a brief commentary on movement. 

The necessity for the restrictions will be reviewed every 21 days and at the time of writing, the next review will take place on 13 April 2020.  Unfortunately, it is our clear view that the first review, if taken on health grounds alone, is unlikely to include a lifting of any restrictions of movement.

Restrictions on movement – this is the title given to section 6 of this Statutory Instrument; i.e. the law on movement.

In essence, we should not leave whatever we call home without a ‘reasonable excuse’.

Specific examples are given of what might be a such an excuse and these are repeated at the end of this article – there are 11 such reasonable excuses listed; the list is not exhaustive.

The reasonable excuses include obtaining basic necessities, exercise, providing care for specific vulnerable people and travelling to work (when it is not reasonably possible to work from home).

By virtue of misfortune, homeless people retain their ‘freedom’.

Should you be stopped by the police and not have a reasonable excuse this could constitute a summary offence punishable by a fine. Equally, should you wish to avoid a court hearing you could agree to accept a fixed penalty notice.

The Government is telling us, and if necessary, enforcing us to stay at home and stay safe. Equally there are valid concerns over the enforcement of these regulations.

However, the bottom line is our National Health Service, weakened by the plague of austerity, needs us to pull together by staying apart – the reward is hopefully our own health and the space to re-calibrate what really matters. 

The fear is how many will succumb to the virus, what the longer-term impact of the virus will be on the economy and possibly the permanence of measures introduced and enabled by this emergency.

Now more than ever, we all need to be reasonable, in our commitment to stay in, when to go out and when and how to apply these regulations.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020

A reasonable excuse to leave the place where you live includes the need-

(a) to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;

(b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;

(c) to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;

(d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;

(e) to donate blood;

(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

(g) to attend a funeral of—

(i) a member of the person’s household,

(ii) a close family member, or

(iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) are attending, a friend;

(h) to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;

(i) to access critical public services, including—

(i) childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);

(ii) social services;

(iii) services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions;

(iv) services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);

(j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;

(k) in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;

(l) to move house where reasonably necessary;

(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.

*By way of update, see the document published yesterday by the National Police Chiefs’ Council giving some clarification of what is likely / not likely to be reasonable in terms of movement.

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