UPDATE (Thursday 19th March) : all stages of the Coronavirus Bill will be taken in the Commons on Monday (not today) – the timetable in the Lords is not published
As we are all aware, coronavirus COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has identified that to effectively manage this coronavirus outbreak in the UK, new fast-tracked legislation is required – termed the Coronavirus Bill.
The legislation will be time-limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately. The bill allows the 4 UK governments to switch on these new powers when they are needed, and, crucially, to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of Chief Medical Officers of the 4 nations.
This Blog does not focus on the specifics of the healthcare sector or social care, but there are some areas in this Bill, that this Blog does track – the Bill :
(1) enables the Home Secretary to request that port and airport operators temporarily close and suspend operations if Border Force staff shortages result in a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security. This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border. This would only be used in extremis, where necessary and proportionate, and any direction will be kept to the minimum period necessary to maintain the security of the UK border
(2) enables the government to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the pandemic in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any movable structure and any offshore installation and, where necessary, to close premises
(3) enables the police and immigration officers to detain a person, for a limited period, who is, or may be, infectious and to take them to a suitable place to enable screening and assessment
(4) requires industry to provide information about food supplies, in the event that an industry partner does not co-operate with current voluntary information-sharing arrangements during a period of potential disruption.
Link to details about the Coronavirus Bill.
This Bill is expected to become law on Thursday.