Amendments to English COVID-19 emergency regulations

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As we have explained previously, the UK government and the UK devolved administrations have enacted emergency legislation to address the effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. In England, regulations have been laid under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 – the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (the Restrictions Regulations) – to impose, inter alia, a 'lockdown' on residents and businesses in England.

The Restrictions Regulations operate by prohibiting people from leaving the place they live except for very limited purposes (such as shopping for basic necessities, exercise, to seek medical assistance or to provide care or assistance) and banning public gatherings of more than two people. The Restrictions Regulations also limit certain types of businesses from operating.

The Restrictions Regulations came into force at 13:00 UK local time on 26 March 2020. Failure to comply with these regulations is a criminal offence. Individuals and corporates in England must therefore comply with these regulations exactly.

On 22 April 2020, the UK Government laid amendment regulations – the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (see here) (the Amendment Regulations) – which amend the Restrictions Regulations. The amendments are intended to provide clarification on the scope of the Restrictions Regulations. They are not therefore intended to make significant changes to the lockdown regime in England. The amendments come into effect immediately and are, in summary, as follows:

  • Regulation 3(4) of the Restrictions Regulations is amended to ensure that prosecutions can be brought (or continued) in respect of breaches of measures in the Restrictions Regulations, where those measures have subsequently been lifted by the UK government. This change is meant to create transitional provision in enforcement activity as and when the lockdown is lifted.

  • Regulation 5(8) of the Restrictions Regulations is amended to clarify burial grounds, including those surrounding crematoriums, can remain open. Previously, there had been some confusion in this area.

  • Regulation 6(1) of the Restrictions Regulations is amended to put beyond doubt that a person commits an offence if they remain outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse, having left it for a permitted reason. Again, this is intended to clarify the scope of the offence and is designed to ensure that the policy goal behind the lockdown – namely social distancing – is met.

  • Regulation 6(2) of the Restrictions Regulations is amended to clarify that it is a reasonable excuse to leave, or be outside of, the house to:
      • access all types of money service businesses including savings clubs and international money transfer businesses.

      • visit a burial ground, garden of remembrance or grounds surrounding a crematorium to pay respects to a family member or friend.
  • Regulation 8(5)(a) of the Restrictions Regulations is a clarificatory amendment to provide that where a child is contravening regulation 6(1), enforcement officials (police officers) should instruct the responsible adult of the child to escort the child to the place where the child is living.

  • Regulation 10 is amended to clarify that a fixed penalty notice can be issued to a person aged 18 and over, rather than over 18. It is also amended to allow a designated officer (not just a local authority) to be specified as the person to whom a fixed penalty is to be paid.

  • Schedule 2 to the Restrictions Regulations is amended:
      • to ensure outdoor swimming pools are closed (in addition to indoor pools);

      • to ensure livestock markets and auctions are exempt from closure; and

      • to clarify types of money service businesses which can remain open includes savings clubs and international money transfer businesses.

        Again, there had been some confusion here as to the scope of the Restrictions Regulations.

As noted above, failure to comply with the Restrictions Regulations is a criminal offence. Individuals and businesses in England should therefore ensure that they are familiar and understand these regulations.

Conclusion

We are supporting businesses and public sector bodies affected by the new emergency measures enacted in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Please get in touch with Paul Stone or Paul Hardy, or your usual DLA Piper contact, for further help and advice.