Coronavirus Regulations: What does this mean for me?
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, hereafter 'The Regulations', provide measures impacting upon businesses and people's movement and aim to reduce the risk to public health from Coronavirus. Certain businesses are ringfenced from closure, others are permitted to remain open, but with restrictions, and many are forced to completely close.
The impact of the Regulations on businesses will be discussed in a separate article. The focus of this article concerns the restrictions on the movement of people and gatherings and the associated enforcement powers.
The regulations are clear, no one may leave their home without reasonable excuse. So, what amounts to reasonable excuse? The list includes:
- Obtaining necessities including food and medical supplies for those in your household (including animals) or for a vulnerable person outside of the home;
- Obtaining supplies for the essential upkeep of the home or to obtain money;
- Taking exercise alone or with members of your household;
- For medical assistance;
- Providing care and assistance for a vulnerable person;
- Donating blood;
- Travel for the purposes of work, or for voluntary services, where it is not reasonably possible for you to work from home;
- Attending a funeral for a member of your household;
- Fulfilling a legal obligation; such as attending Court or to participate in legal proceedings;
- Accessing crucial public services; such as childcare and social services;
- Adhering to existing child arrangements for access and contact where children do not live in the same household as parents or one of their parents;
- Minister of religion or worship leader to travel to their place of worship;
- Moving to a new house where reasonably necessary; and
- Avoiding injury, illness or escape risk of harm.
The Regulations restrict gatherings also. Gatherings of more than two persons, in a public place, is prohibited. There are exceptions to this restriction, including gatherings with those who are all part of the same household, attending a funeral or if such is 'reasonably necessary'. ‘Reasonably necessary’ might mean to facilitate a house move, provide care and assistance, in an emergency and/or to fulfil a legal obligation.
The Regulations give a 'relevant person' or an 'authorised person' (Constable, Police Community Support Officer and a Secretary of State / Local Authority directed person) powers to enforce the restrictions mentioned above. To be discussed in a future article, there are also powers to enforce the requirement to close businesses or enforce restrictions upon businesses through prohibition notices and criminal offences.
For the enforcement powers upon people, the regulations grant powers to impose criminal offences and penalties where there is a breach. It would also be a criminal offence if someone were to obstruct, without reasonable excuse, the function of the Regulations. A relevant person has powers to direct that you return to your home, remove you to your home or direct a gathering to disperse. Where directing or removing is involved, the relevant person can use reasonable force if necessary.
Where children are in breach of the restrictions, a responsible individual can be directed to ensure the child returns to their home. Where there is a repeated failure of a child to comply, then the individual responsible for the child may be directed to secure the child; so far as reasonably practicable.
An authorised person can also issue a fixed penalty notice if a breach of the regulations is committed by someone over the age of 18. A fixed penalty notice offers the person an opportunity to discharge liability (responsibility) by payment of a fixed penalty. The fixed penalty will be for £60, to be reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. Where it is the second fixed penalty notice the fixed penalty is £120, for third and subsequent notices then the penalty doubles to the maximum of £960.
If a person disobeys enforcement action, then this too would amount to a criminal offence (summary only offence) punishable by a fine. Proceedings of course would first need to be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The Regulations prescribe a number of restrictions on the public's everyday life and grant extensive enforcement powers, with the aim to curb the spread of coronavirus. The Regulations must be reviewed once every 21 days, with the first review scheduled for 16 April 2020; check our article page where we will provide an update of any amendments.
Nothing within this article is to be treated as formal legal advice. If you require further legal advice then please speak with our Senior Clerk Adam Taplin, please do not hesitate to call him directly on 0207 889 2525 or email email@example.com.