(June 16, 2020) As part of its efforts to slowly reduce restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on June 1, 2020, the secretary of state of England introduced the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 to amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, which contain a number of measures that restrict people’s activities and freedom of movement to lessen the public health risks arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
As with the original regulations, the amending regulations were made under the emergency procedures contained in section 45R of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, and a draft was not laid before Parliament for approval because the secretary of state had made a declaration in accordance with this section that the coronavirus poses a serious and imminent threat to public health and the regulations contain provisions that are an effective method of delaying or preventing the transmission of the virus.
Regulation 2(6) amends the prohibition on “leaving or being outside of the place where an individual is living” to prohibit individuals from staying overnight outside of the home where they live, unless they have a reasonable excuse. Examples provided in the regulation include
- attending the funeral of a close family member, a member of the person’s household, or a friend if no one else is attending;
- moving to a new residence;
- athletic training or competitions involving elite athletes, their coaches and/or parents;
- enabling children to continue child custody agreements, fulfilling legal obligations, or participating in legal proceedings;
- when people cannot return to their home because it is not safe for them to live there, they can’t lawfully travel there or are otherwise required to stay in another place, or any other reason; and
- when it is reasonably necessary for work or for charitable or volunteer purposes; to provide care to a vulnerable person; to provide emergency assistance; to obtain medical assistance; or to avoid injury, illness, or escape from a risk of harm, such as that posed by an abusive partner.
This particular regulation has caused controversy because, as written, it effectively prevents couples who do not reside in the same household from spending the night at each other’s homes.
The regulations also contain detailed provisions on what social gatherings may occur. Outdoor gatherings that occur in both public and private places may consist of no more than six people. Indoor gatherings may consist of no more than two people. There are exceptions to these restrictions, which include a number of the exceptions listed above, as well as cases in which all the people in the gathering are from the same household, or in which the gathering “takes place at an educational facility and is reasonably necessary for the purposes of education.”
Although the regulations provide for these restrictions, the power they provide to the police to enforce them on private premises is limited to directing a gathering to disperse, directing people to leave such gatherings or residences, or directing persons who are staying overnight away from their residence in contravention of the regulations to return home. The police have no power to enter someone’s home to enforce the regulations, nor may they remove someone or use force to do so. In cases where the police cannot get people breaching the regulations in gatherings to cooperate, police guidance notes that the police may issue a fixed penalty notice, which starts at 100 pounds (about US$112) for a first notice and increases up to a maximum of 3,200 pounds (about US$3,590) for repeated notices. In cases of individuals staying overnight at a place outside of their residence, the police may issue a fixed penalty notice or arrest the person.
Also under the new regulations, certain businesses may open to train elite athletes, defined in the regulations as athletes who derive their living from competing in a sport, are senior representatives nominated by a relevant sporting body, are members of the senior training squad for a relevant sporting body, or are aged 16 or above and on an elite development pathway.
The regulations also clarify that places of worship and community centers can be used to provide daycare for young children.