The health protection (Coronavirus) regulations came into force in England & Wales on the 10th February 2020 as statutory instrument no.129 of 2020. It was introduced by Matt Hancock the Secretary for State, Health & Social care and made under the emergency procedure set out in section 45R of the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984.
Burton Copeland explains the reasons for the new laws, what they mean to individuals, how they will be enforced and consequences of failing to comply.
Why were the new laws introduced?
The Government introduced the powers for two major reasons:
- .To enable government to take all reasonable steps to limit the transmission and spreading of the disease.
- To ensure that government retains public trust in its public health protection measures which is critical in ensuring that the public continues to engage and comply with interventions.
What do the new powers mean?
In summary, the powers allow for the detention of individuals in order that they can be screened for the virus, assessed or subjected to “any other restriction or requirement [which is] considered necessary for the purposes of removing or reducing the risk of infecting or contaminating others”.
Who is affected by the new powers?
These can be imposed where the Secretary of State or an authorised Public Health Consultant are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
Condition A –the individual is or may be infected or contaminated and that there is a risk that the public may be infected or contaminated.
Condition B – an individual has left an infected area and within 14 days arrived in the United Kingdom, either directly or via Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.
Where the conditions are met above, the individual could be detained for a period of 48 hours ino order to be subjected to a screening or testing for the virus.
What is screening?
In accordance with Section 6 screening requires that the individual must if required:
- Answer questions about their health or other circumstances such as travel history and contact with others.
- Produce documents which might assist in assessing their health.
- Allow a public health officer to take a biological sample
- Provide contact information
In the case of a child, the responsibility for the above requirements passes to the accompanying responsible adult.
Can individuals be detained indefinitely?
Section 8 of the regulations allows the authorities to detain for isolation providing that conditions A & B above are met and there is a reasonable belief that the individual is contaminated, and it is considered necessary and proportionate to do so.
Section 9 determines the length of time that a person can be detained as a period not exceeding 14 days and that detention must be reviewed every 24 hours.
What are the restrictions that can be imposed?
Once released from detention for screening (Section 6) or detention for isolation (section 8) a number of restrictions and requirements that can be imposed on individuals under the regulations such as restrictions on;
- Contact with specified persons.
What other restrictions can be imposed?
Regulation 11 allows that a Part2a Order can be made by a Magistrates Court in accordance with S45(m) Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 on application to a Justice of the Peace by
- A registered public health consultant (in accordance with S45G (2)) where:
- a)A person is infected or contaminated,
- b)It presents or could present significant harm to human health,
- c)There is a risk that P might infect or contaminate others, and
- d)It is necessary to make the order in order to remove or reduce that risk.
The order can require that the individual is to:
- a)submit to medical examination;
- b)be removed to a hospital or other suitable establishment;
- c)be detained in a hospital or other suitable establishment
- d)be kept in isolation or quarantine;
The Secretary of State (in accordance with S45K (2)) where there is a requirement for:
“Any other restriction or requirements as the justice considered necessary for the purpose of reducing or removing the risk in question”
Can I appeal any restriction or requirement?
The short answer is yes you can. Regulation 12 allows that any person to whom a restriction or requirement is imposed under the regulations may appeal to the Magistrates Court against the decision to impose the requirement or restriction. The same applies in the case of a child whereby a person with parental responsibility is able to appeal on their behalf. If you are affected by any issue or wish to appeal, then please contact us.
Who enforces the Coronavirus Regulations and how?
Where there is a requirement is imposed in relation to detention or isolation, a police constable may use reasonable force in order to take the person to a designated place, keep them there and take them into custody (for the purposes of returning them to the place of detention or isolation) should they abscond.
Can you be prosecuted under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020
Yes, regulation 15 creates a number of offences if an individual
- Fails without reasonable excuse to comply with a restriction or requirement imposed – (1) (a)
- Absconds or attempts to abscond from detention or isolation – (1) (b)
- Either intentionally or recklessly provides false or misleading information to any person carrying out a function under these regulations – (2)
- Without reasonable excuse obstructs any person carrying out a function under these regulations – (3)
What is the punishment for offences under these regulations?
At the time of commencement the punishment for any of the offences specified in regulation 15 is a fine up to £1000.